Commodore User1st September 1988
Published in Commodore User #60
Anybody remember Top Gun? No, not the film, Ocean's official tie-in was released about eighteen months back on the Spectrum and Amstrad but never quite made it onto the C64. Well, although it wasn't a particularly good game, it did have one novel feature. The screen display was split vertically into two independent cockpit screens, allowing two players to participate in a 'one-on-one' aerial dogfight.
Now that idea has been revamped in Skychase, Mirrorsoft's first Amiga release on their new Image Works label. There's no plot, storyline or scenario to speak of, just plain and simple air combat action against another player or the computer. As I mentioned earlier, the screen display is split vertically down the middle, with each player having his own view from his plane. Each display consists of the obvious visual cockpit screen and a variety of gauges, indicating factors such as speed, altitude, ammunition and so on. In addition there's a tactical map of the playing area so you can see exactly where you are in relation to your opponent.
Combat begins with a computer-controlled flyby sequence in which the two planes shoot by each other before control is handed over to the players. The game takes place over a large wireframe grid set onto the ground below and gives an effect not dissimilar to Novagen's Mercenary. The two planes are also drawn using the standard vector graphics technique. The aim of the game is simple: blow your opponent out of the sky as many times as possible thus accumulating a higher score before your fuel runs out and the game ends. This is done by simply zooming around the game grid and trying to get directly up the bot of your opponent where you can open fire on him. Weaponry comes in two basic forms, cannons and missiles. Cannons are fairly basic weapons with a reasonably long range, and quite effective if your target is twisting and turning, trying to evade your fire as you can just strafe it with a long burst of fire. Missiles are also quite effective, but not in as many situations. To lock a missile onto a target, get within close range and a tracking cursor will appear on screen. If you can get this in line with your own crosshair, you can let off a missile which will hit 99% of the time, providing your opponent doesn't barrel-roll out of range at the last second.
An interesting twist to Skychase is the way you can effectively redesign the entire game by altering variables on the title screen until it suits you. You can choose from several types of planes, including F-14s, F-16s, MiGs (the bane of my life) and even Paper planes! You can also change weapon loads for each player, as well as missile lock ranges and cannon impact tolerance (but only well 'ard Interceptor vets like me should muck around with these settings). The amount of fuel, and subsequently the length of the game can also be changed.
Game-designing frills aside, Skychase is a pretty mundane attempt at an arcade flight sim. Graphically the game is enough to turn you into a manic depressive, as there's nothing on the screen except the sky (the blue bit), the ground (the green bit) and the grid, which is only there to point out that you are actually moving. Very rarely do you get close enough to your opponent to pick out any detail on his plane. Sound too is dreary (dull engine sounds and boring title page music do not bring me to the height of aural excitement). What annoys me most about Skychase is the way that the computer behaves so realistically. Unlike a real flight game like Interceptor where enemy MiGs pitch and roll with the greatest expertise to avoid your attacks, the computer plane in Skychase is quite happy to let you blow him away with practically no evasive manoeuvres.
However, that's a nitpick at the one player option. It's the two player game where all the enjoyment is to be gleaned, as here at least you're up against a competent opponent (unless you're playing Tony Dillon).
For this reason, I would only advise you to consider buying Skychase if you have a chum to play it with. The computer mode is boring, too easy and ultimately a drag to play.