The Single Button Joystick

Tag: Silent Service II

MicroProse: Another hero of yesteryear.

by on Mar.20, 2013, under Amiga, IBM and Compatibles

FuturisiticalI have some amazing memories of my Amiga days. Unfortunately uniform stats didn’t exist, so I can’t go back and measure the hours spent on this or that game. If I could find out these stats, MicroProse games would have many hundreds of hours dedicated to them.

Upon closing Covert Action.

Upon closing Covert Action.

Primarily a strategy game developer, MicroProse was making just what I wanted to play. Their release history is literally a catalogue of the most influential games of all time. MicroProse games are among my favourites for many reasons, but primarily because they had a great sense of achievement and continuation in an age when the arcade game was still a viable medium.

Gunship, Silent Service II and Pirates! all had very different scoring systems. Gunship was one of my favourites because it awarded you medals, combat ribbons and promotions. Trying to keep your pilot alive while accumulating these was immensely satisfying. The original Civilization’s method of  comparing you to a famous world leader has yet to be beaten. Doing poorly would result in comparisons to Neville Chamberlain or even… Dan Quayle.

Upon closing Gunship 2000

I’ve always thought games during my peak Amiga years (1989-1996) to be more niche and with a steeper learning curve than the years after it, yet, I managed to figure out the controls to these games without a manual. As a ten-year old I piloted my AH-64 Apache through the jungles of Central America, destroying those dastardly FSLN forces, after some trial and error of course! I’ve always looked back and found surprising at how willing I was to figure out games from scratch. The pre internet days really gave me no choice in this matter!

Deciding to play these on Amiga emulators or through DOSbox is a tough choice. The Amiga versions are generally slower and less responsive, but have great sound and music. The PC versions run smoothly but sound very ‘tinny’.

I could go on about MicroProse, but I’d rather praise them on a game by game basis. I felt it was important to give the company as a whole some love.

After writing the article on Covert Action I sunk another ten hours into it. Some classics will never leave me!

It seems even Turkey has fans of Gunship 2000 and MicroProse!

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An Underhanded Undersea Odyssey.

by on Sep.27, 2011, under Amiga, Commodore 64, IBM and Compatibles, Modern, PC, Retro

He turned to look at me, put his finger to his lips and said ‘shhhh, depth charges.’

Noise free, proud to be.

I remember walking into the study (a tiny room from which I am typing) and seeing my Dad, a submarine captain. Japanese Destroyers were above us and nearly sunk our sub over the next ten minutes; Ten minutes where we only spoke in whispers. I don’t know if the whispering helped our cause, but Dad managed to pull the damaged sub away from the Japanese and made for home. This scenario happened a couple of times and it enforced the mentality: Silence ruled under these simulated waves and it was something I wanted to try. Thus began my first foray into this undersea world with 1987’s Silent Service. The Amiga version that took me into the briny deep was a significant upgrade on the C64 and Spectrum versions from two years, though the graphics and sound still left a lot of work for the imagination. At the time, these limitations made no difference to the tense atmosphere the game created. The variety of ships to sink was very small, and disappointingly battleships were not included, but as a result I now love me some submarines.

As a weapon of war, they are often misunderstood in the media.  Australia is still shocked that a single Japanese mini sub penetrated Sydney harbour and missed a stationary USS Chicago with two torpedoes. This is common knowledge to almost every Australian, but I’d wager next to no-one would know about the hugely successful United States Navy submarine campaign. Even with hugely defective torpedoes for the first 18 months of the conflict, the “Silent Service” brought Japan’s resource empire to its knees. However it was a conflict I grew up with, because of my beloved Amiga 500.

A decade later I can still sink em'!

The aptly named Silent Service II: Serve Silenter* continued my love for underwatery adventures. It was an excellent game and sequel, improving on its predecessor in all areas. Disappointingly, the game ran too slowly, as my old A500 was showing its age. I didn’t really go crazy for it until I found a copy for my first PC several years later. The smoother experience and quicker loading times really allowed me to get deeper into the game and actually play it properly.

Although I had many successes with SSII, one particular encounter stands out. I had found a large convoy fairly close to Japan, the war was still going fierce so it was probably 1943 sometime. What made this convoy special and unlike any other I had seen, was that it had only one troop ship, being escorted by around six destroyers of varying size. I managed to evade the escorting ships and sink the troop transport, making my escape undetected. After reviewing my combat log, I found that the Troop Ship was worth nearly over 1,200 points 25% more than the Super Battleship Yamato. It left me wondering WHO was on that ship? Hitler meeting Emperor Hirohito with Mussolini doing the cooking.

My Captain would have looked similar

Soon after this amazing patrol, when that career ended, my Captain had amassed a truly dazzling array of medals and commendations; Five Naval Unit Commendations, Five Presidential Unit Commendations, twice awarded the Medal of Honor and a whole host of other award. With this level of heroism, even Mormons would shout this captain a beer. In that last campaign, I was playing it on near realistic difficulty and the rewards reflected that, however it was hardly a difficult game once I had it ‘figured out’.

In stark contrast, my experiences with 2005’s  Silent Hunter III on the PC were bathed in horror. By no means was being a submariner in the US navy an easy job, but in comparison, Uboating for the Germans was a death sentence. 30,000 of the 40,000 that served in the Uboats did not return home. Despite knowing this, I’ve started four or five campaigns and they’ve mostly ended up the same way. I do really well and sink many-a-ship in the first 18 months, then the fun turns to repeated deaths at the hands of the professional submarine killers that are the Royal Navy. Its sequel, the sadly buggy Silent Hunter IV: Wolves of the Pacific took me back to the almost friendly atmosphere of the Pacific, where the Japanese will lose, no matter what you do.

It is easier to play on the side that won the war.

Who knew?!

*not the real title


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