Your task is to recreate one of the most famous air raids of the Second World War, in which Lancaster Bombers from 617 squadron destroyed dams and flooded the Ruhr valley, part of Germany's industrial heartland. The original mission succeeded but you have the opportunity to try it for yourself - maybe you'll miss!
There are three levels to choose from that start you at different points in the mission. The first just gives you the approach to the dam, the second puts you over the English channel with the whole of Europe to cross, and the third puts you on the ground at Scampton Airfield in north-east England. These are successively harder to complete because of the jobs you have to perform and the defences you face.
On all the missions, you do the jobs of the seven crew members of a single Lancaster Bomber. It only carries one bomb so that you can only destroy one dam, and the game ends after it is dropped, whether you succeed or not. There are three basic problems that have to be overcome in order to complete the mission: learning to fly the plane, avoiding the German defences and dropping the bomb on target. To achieve these you need to perform all seven jobs with speed and accuracy.
The pilot screen shows a view through the cockpit and the instruments, indicating height, direction, horizon and speed. From here you have to fly the plane using the joystick and set the correct course for approaching the dam. This ties up much of the time with the two engineer screens (one in the two shortened missions). On the first screen you control the engines with throttles and boosters to set the speed, and fire extinguishers if an engine is set on fire. The second screen is needed for take-offs and controls the rudder, flaps, landing gear and fuel indicators.
The navigator's screen consists of maps showing the territory over which the plane is passing. These include details on population, military and industrial centres, airports, radar stations and the dams. This should warn you of the type and weight of opposition you'll face flying over different areas.
The front and tail gunner screens are the Lancaster's means of defence against the three enemy threats. These are night fighters, barrage balloons and searchlights, all of which can be shot. Night fighters can damage the plane, barrage balloons can cause you to crash if you fly into them, while searchlights can home the flak in on the plane. None of them are very difficult to shoot but can catch you unawares when you're concentrating on other screens.
The bomb aimer screen is where you ready the bomb for dropping. To successfully destroy the dam, the plane has to be travelling at the right speed, height and direction, and the bomb has to be released at the correct moment. The screens are all quite nicely designed but the actual flying graphics aren't very impressive. The engine and machine gun noises are also weak, leaving a lot depending on the gameplay.
It's quite difficult to complete the whole mission and you'll need a fair bit of practice, but once you've done it there seems little reason to come back to the game. While playing you are constantly busy trying to do seven jobs, and this is probably the game's strong point. The dam approach will take a few runs to master, but a succesful attack will probably be greeted with disappointment because, although you a get picture of the dam, it doesn't explode, collapse or breach at all, it just tells you that the bomb hit.
On the whole I found this rather disappointing. It's gets a fair amount of atmosphere from the presentation of both the instructions and the screens; but the game itself needs polishing around the edges. It certainly can't be called a flight simulator, but until you succeed in completing the full mission it may provide some hours of challenge.
It's all a pretty silly idea giving you all seven people's jobs, but it's the only thing that gives the game any staying power. Graphically unexciting and sonically appalling, this is a real solve-and-forget job.
The water's almost invisible, but you don't really need to see it anyway.
P. Plenty to do throughout the game.
P. Nicely presented instructions and screens.
P. Completing the full mission is a fair challenge.
N. Rotten sound effects.
N. Disappointing ending.
N. Once cracked, you probably won't want to play again.