Commodore User1st September 1988
Published in Commodore User #61
Sub Battle Simulator
Epyx's contribution to the small but popular genre of submarine simulations is Sub Battle Simulator.
As in Silent Service, the game is set in World War II, in the Pacific Ocean. At the outset of the game you're given a selection of different game types of varying levels of difficulty. There are sixty missions to attempt as well as the option to indulge in a spot of target practice.
The game itself is presented very much more like Red October than Silent Service, as the whole game is controlled from just one screen. The majority of the screen display is given over to the various gauges, maps, dials and switches while the top-right hand corner allows you to view the outside world directly through either the conning tower, periscope or binoculars, which are useful for viewing things close up.
Missions vary greatly in terms of description and complexity, but all of them will involve you coming into contact with the enemy sooner or later. Combat is a simple affair of firing torpedoes and deck guns at targets until they sink. The enemy doesn't really prove a worthy adversary until later missions so things can become rather boring, especially when you consider how long it takes for your sub to travel any noticeable distance. Combat has been spiced up slightly by the inclusion of enemy fighters that attack quite often but are easily done away with with a quick burst of anti-aircraft fire.
As in the other two sub games, there is some need for strategic thought such as remembering to transfer and reload torpedoes when all the tubes are empty, knowing when and when not to dive, and calculating exactly when to fire a torpedo, taking into account the speed, range and heading of your target.
Sub Battle Simulator scores over Silent Service and Red October in some respects, but it is vastly inferior in most others. It is certainly a great deal more authentic and boasts some very well-defined static graphics. Unfortunately, Epyx seem to have gone a bit over the top with the sampled sound effects, and the end result means having to wait about ten seconds for the sampled sound to load from disk every time you want to fire the deck guns or dive. Also, there's very little variation in gameplay, and this is all down to bad game design and sloppy execution. Sorry guys, but as far as I'm concerned, Silent Service is still the definitive sub sim.