So you're a seasoned veteran of the Arcade Wars and you're looking for something to relieve the boredom? You say that Operation Wolf was a piece of cake? Well, soldier, you've got your wish. Fall in and prepare for Romstar's latest "special ops" mission — Aqua Jack'.
Your assignment is to take control of your armed forces' most powerful attack hovercraft, advance toward the hostile camp, and utterly destroy the enemy. As usual, you must also rescue anyone who needs rescuing and blow up everything that needs blowing up.
Aqua Jack is both fun and addictive. It's difficult enough to merit continued play, but not too difficult to be frustrating. In fact, if you've got the time and money, if s even possible to finish this game in one sitting. And Aqua Jack does have a definite ending—but more on that later.
Those who remember Activision's classic computer game River Raid will feel at home with Aqua Jack. Looking down on an overhead view of your hovercraft, you go zooming up a river through eight levels of everything the other side can throw against you. We're talking MiG-31 jet fighters, AH-1 helicopter gunships, armored PBRs, mines, missiles, tanks, and the occasional steel barricade thrusting out of the water just in time to ruin your day.
You're not without some surprises of your own, though. The trigger on your control stick activates a rapid-fire Vulcan cannon, and two thumb buttons allow you to launch missiles and hop over deadly obstacles. An accelerator pedal allows you to control your speed. When the game starts, your assault team climbs aboard the hovercraft. The screen displays a profile map of all eight levels, with your current location highlighted by a flashing yellow box. Then your view shifts to the gloomy interior of an amphibious landing craft just as the massive door swings open. Stomp on the pedal and you're off.
Level 1 is a river delta where you battle airplanes and other hovercraft while maneuvering around trees, rocks, and mines. At the end of each level, you face a particularly nasty enemy. It might be a multi engine bomber, or an entire troop train blocking your way, but it's always something big — and it always requires numerous well-aimed shots to destroy. Once it's cleared, your hovercraft automatically zooms off toward the horizon and forward to the next level.
Between levels, as in Operation Wolf, the screen displays your progress on a map and shows your current score. As you proceed upriver, each level becomes more urban and more fortified. At one point, you'll even have to fly through a nice little thunderstorm.
When you complete the eighth and last level, Aqua Jack treats you to a sequence of your team docking the hovercraft and successfully taking over the enemy stronghold. Then something really peculiar happens — a bald, gray guy with pointed ears appears on a monitor screen, along with some illegible writing. Who is this guy? Is he the enemy boss cursing you from his escape vehicle? And what does the writing mean? The game gives you no clue.
Finally, Aqua Jack ends with your hovercraft on the river shore at sunset. All of the enemy vehicles you've destroyed take a curtain call, and the game's design credits scroll past. A very satisfying conclusion.
Two hints: First, remember that the control stick positions both the gunsight and the missile cursor, so aim carefully. Also, wait for the missile-lock indicator to light up before launching a missile. Otherwise, you'll be a sitting duck while the unlocked missile goes off into the ether.