The Single Button Joystick

Tag: First World War

Drove a dump truck full of nostalgia up to my place…

by on Apr.30, 2012, under Amiga, Hobbies

Such happy boys, only one of them would make it back, marrying the dead one's sister.

I did some unboxing this week. The very notion of getting something new in the mail, opening it and finally getting THAT THING, is a very appealing one to me, and most people I’d imagine. In the past I have been disappointed by my eBay Amiga acquisitions, partly from my own misreading of the description and from the seller failing to mention that some items were almost entirely covered in pen. This week though, disappointment was not in the box.

I don’t often browse eBay for Amiga items, because of one obvious and one not so obvious reason. It can get very expensive, chasing Amiga games down the rabbit hole of collecting. So I resolved with myself only to fill the gaps in my original collection and not just grab any old thing that pops up. There were a number of games I wanted in my Amiga youth that I was never able to get, and I’ll probably make a list sometime. Regardless, two of these are now in my clutches.

The first I saw, Knights of the Sky is a flight simulator set in the First World War. A few posts ago I was talking about Wings, which despite being set in the same era and being a flight sim, has almost nothing in common with Knights of the Sky. KOTS. is not a restrictive mission based game, but is set in a dynamic map with a full campaign. During a mission you can technically fly anywhere in the Flanders front, but you’d run out of fuel before that could happen. It is a much prettier and much more detailed game than Wings, especially since the

$80 1992 bux. 9$ an hour would have been a good rate back then!

damage to your own plane isn’t always in the same places. Wings was a story driven arcade game with a flight simulator section. KOTS was a fully fledged flight sim, where you can choose your plane, pilot, and again unlike Wings, play as the Germans.

My experience playing it was very limited, only with a demo disk that came with an issue of Amiga Power. However while you couldn’t play any real missions, it did allow a free flight mission where you could run into enemy planes, bomb their airfields and crash hilariously. Usually after about half an hour of flying you’d lose your engine power from enemy fire. It was rare to get shot down and crash, so you’d

Sweet map, and so many cards!

end up rolling along the ground trying to get back to your airfield as an automobile.

What I ended up getting from eBay was an amazing trip back in time, all of it in near flawless condition. I don’t think anything had been thrown out since purchase, and there were even two backup copies of both disks! Best of all, it came with its receipt. Typical Harvey Norman super expensive pricing $80, from 9th Sept, 1992. A month’s wage!

I’m very happy with this find, and it will find its place somewhere near the top of my eventual Amiga museum. Somewhere in between Cannon Fodder and Monkey Island.

Later this week I’ll post up the other game I got, which is ALMOST as exciting.

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I earnt my Wings twenty two years ago…

by on Mar.27, 2012, under Amiga, Hobbies

Last year, I told a story about a coincidence. A character controlled by both myself and my dad, not created by us in any way, sharing my father’s birthday. A character who would have turned 100 just the week before we finished the very game of which he was the star.

That game was Wings. After that rather melodramatic and long-winded buildup, I promise you there will be no more beating around the proverbial bush. Wings is a loose flight sim/arcade game. The majority of the gameplay is set in the cockpit of some fairly generic looking WWI Biplane (it is never stated explicitly) with the player at the helm. What is unusual about this is that the pilot of the plane sits in front of where the camera is, so you can see the back and sides of his head during the action. Rather than this getting in the way as you might think, it was very useful, as his head will usually look at the nearest enemy plane, letting you find it much more easily.

The game is a Cinemaware production, a company well known for their ‘Silver Screen’ themed games, that is to say, they were games that were played through the guise of watching a 1920s silent film, complete with dialogue cards and film grain during the cutscenes and a soundtrack that feels layered over the game.

The game is fairly evenly divided into three different mission types, Patrols, Strafing and Bombing. In reverse order Bombing is the most fun, least common of the three modes. It’s a basic vertical scrolling shooter, the twist being that you’re controlling a Great War plane. Rather than a zippy spacecraft like in Raiden or even Galaga, your aeroplane is sluggish and you can’t just move out-of-the-way of German plane at a whim. Shooting down german aircraft is dangerous and not really worth it, since they are all ‘unconfirmed’. Confirmed kills, which add to your total, only count in the patrol missions, probably so you couldn’t accumlate five or six kills in a few minutes. But shooting down planes is not the goal of these missions, and before you begin you’re given a photograph of your target with some crude circles drawn around it. Depending on the size of the target your plane is given a certain amount of bombs, no more than ten if I remember rightly. Hit the target(s) mission success, miss them, or get shot down (no matter if you hit the target or not) you fail. Bombing missions were fun, simple and always over too quickly.

I don’t want to go into Strafing runs, as the 2nd most common and least enjoyable of the three sections. Controlling the plane from an isometric view, you have to either shoot soldiers (running around taking pot shots at your plane), destroy a convoy (which would probably consisted of 10% of all automobiles used by German during the war) or, worst of allĀ  strafing the train. ‘Bullets bounce off trains’ is a quotation from the game itself. A quote from the character you’re controlling, writing in his diary about how much he hates strafing missions. Yeah, he’s got a point. They’d be passable if they weren’t so LONG. So very frustrating when you spend what seemed like fifteen minutes strafing a train, only to have failed the mission because you only destroyed 49% of it. Dad and I did NOT look forward to these.

Finally, the most common and really the heart and soul of the game are the Patrol missions. These are the most like a flight sim, where the goal is to shoot down all the enemy planes you meet. If the time runs out, one of the planes gets away, or you get shot down the mission is a failure. Damage to your own plane always happens in the same places in the same order: A few bullets along the wings, then you lose one of your guns. Then a bullet will hit your engine, disabling your plane and allowing you to crash-land. If you’re unlucky, after this a stream of bullet holes can appear behind your pilot and you lose control of the plane as he slumps forward. However once or twice this happened, the plane crashed and I got the mission failed screen and not, YOU ARE DEAD. It was only after a few months of playing the game that I noticed it tracked a number of skills and abilities. Your pilots stamina would start at Lead Belly and work its way up to Steel Fortress (after many missions) at which point you could survive a head on collision. However after surviving the value would be greatly reduced, so you’d have to build up again before regaining your invincibility. Other skills improve your marksmanship, ability to unjam your guns and your planes responsiveness.

Wings was an astoundingly difficult game when I was a ten year old, and it took my friend and I several weeks of practice before either of us were able to shoot down a plane and NOT die in the attempt. After a few short months though, the challenge had diminished, and while death could strike the unlucky, it was almost impossible not to become the greatest flying ace of all time. Everytime.

I recently gave Rise of Flight a try, but it was quite crashy on me. Oh well, the search for the perfect game continues.

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