Commodore User1st July 1987
Published in Commodore User #47
In March 1944, the 460th squadron of B24 bombers flew nineteen missions from their base in Spinazolla, Italy, to destroy the Ploestri oil refineries in Rumania. Now it's your turn to lead your squadron of forty bombers against Hitler's oil supplies. Your success or failure could determine the outcome of the war.
The game (disk or tape) is supplied with a full instruction manual that takes you through "training" flights to the coast of Yugoslavia and then on to Bucharest. Survive those with most of your crews intact then you're ready for the campaign game. Then you'll need to read your intelligence folder on the Poestli oil refineries and the map to make sure you avoid hitting any mountains.
B24 is one of BSI's excellent strategy games and so the emphasis of the game lies in the planning and the strategy to ensure that you not only complete one mission but also have enough planes capable of flying the next eighteen missions as well. Consequently the graphics are crude - it's certainly not another Gunship but they are functional. B24 also assumes that you know how to fly a plane (most squadron leaders do!) and so has simplified these procedures leaving you to concentrate on your route and bombing run.
Each mission begins with a briefing giving you details of your target, formation, altitude and where and when you should meet your fighter escort. Any bomber crew will know how important a fighter escort is so you should ensure that you're at the rendezvous point on time otherwise the fighters will have used their limited flying time waiting for you. A fighter squadron can only stay in the air for a fraction of your flying time especially if they're fighting enemy aircraft and so in the longer missions you will have to rendezvous with three different escorts. Get it wrong and you could be without fighter cover over enemy air space.
Taking off is fairly straightforward with simple adjustments to the flaps and then a climb to the formation altitude (about 2,000ft) and circle while the rest of your squadron slots into formation. Then it's off to the first escort rendezvous point to pick up the fighters to join you on the long journey to target. During this flight you will have to make several course adjustments to steer clear of enemy flak and climb to the ideal bombing height. Luckily you can also speed up the game from real time to anything up to 60 times real time to skip over the long flights but you will have to swap back to real time to change course and attack the target.
As you start your bombing run, the screen swaps to an overhead view of the target and a target cross replaces your formation symbol which you must guide to the target while avoiding (or surviving) the heavy flak. When you're over the target you should release your bomb load and then get out of the area as fast as you can while keeping your formation intact. This is vital as a tight formation can protect itself a lot better than single bombers. Then you have to get home, survive a tricky landing and muster as many planes as you can for the next mission.
Any damage caused by enemy aircraft of flak such as oil and fuel leaks, cockpit hits, flap damage, engine loss or supercharger damage will make your journey home more difficult and you may have to land on another airfield, attempt a crash landing or even bail out. Your maintenance crews will try and repair your planes as quickly as they can to allow you to fly the next mission. However, since you have nineteen missions to destroy twelve targets you can afford to miss out one or two to ensure you have enough firepower to destroy the targets.
Just because you don't have to move a joystick to fly the plane doesn't mean you don't have a lot to do, particularly when you have to balance fuel to bomb loads to ensure you get to your target and have enough firepower to destroy it, set courses through heavy winds and difficult terrain packed full of flak firing cities, deal with any damage alerts and keep your squadron in a safe tight fashion.
The game was originally designed by two real bomber pilots (one B24, the other B29) and so you can be sure it's realistic. A great simulation, but don't expect mind-blowing graphics.