Reach For The Skies
|a game by||Rowan Software|
|Editor Rating:||6.5/10, based on 1 review|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 1 vote|
|Rate this game:|
Farnsworth grittbd his eyes, slitted his teeth and stared into the seat of his pants. Obviously his handy phrase-generation macro for wwii flight sim reviewers was malfunctioning. Damn this war. He pulled the thrush wide open on his Spittle, pulled back on the jukebox and hurtled into the wide blue whale. He'd always wanted to be a fly-boy. Instead, his mother had insisted he join the raf. But there was something about those specialists of the tailoring world that had always seemed glamorous, and still called him. It was the inherent danger, he supposed. Flying wasn't nearly as much fun, thought Farnsworth to himself, as he broke through the cloud cover. He recited the old maxim to himself, "Look for the Hun... in the sun." He opened the newspaper and sure enough, there they were, next to Gary Bushell's column. How apt he thought.
I suppose I should introduce you formally: Casual Browser in wh Smiths - Reach for the Skies: Reach for the Skies - Casual Browser in wh Smiths. It's yet another flight sim. Another chance to fly about in a pretend plane and shoot pretend people. The additional extra - the much-prized 'angle' that's supposed to give it its vital edge in the jostling, overcrowded world of the flight sim - is that as well as being one of the upper-crust, slightly mercurial pilots, you can also play the game as a controller, masterminding either The Defence of This Great Nation, or the Glorious Third Reich's attempts to over-run it. In either case, if the percentage of raf planes in service drops below 50%. the war is over and Churchill takes his collection of cigars and books nobody's ever read to Canada. How the Canadians feel about this is not made clear.
Life with a leather helmet
But let's talk about the pilot side of things first. It's not stunning, and it's not a disaster, but there are one or two irritations. One of the most obvious is that the enemy's position is given to you in "O'clock" even when they're 45 miles away. Whatever happened to headings? The messages across the top of the screen are a bit naff, and the digitised speech is also a bit crap - I'm sure Germans don't shout "Tally ho!" to each other. The other thing I found a hit strange is that you can happily gun your wingmen down if you're bored and nobody mentions it to you when you get back to base, which is taking British politeness to a bit of an extreme.
The controls are a bit vague without a good-quality joystick. and tend to have an inertia effect, whereby a slight movement hardly moves you about at all. then a little more sends you veering violently all over the sky like a stunt pilot having an epileptic fit. This problem disappears with a good joystick and with the keyboard - which is good news for office gamesplayers who are forced for reasons of secrecy to utilise "the claw", the hideously deformed hand generated by years of using cursor keys, although it's a bit unusual these days. Also a bit unusual these days is the fact that you don't need a 50MHz monster to run it: the game runs quite smoothly on my humble 20MHz 386SX.
Life as a controller isn't any better than life as a pilot. You can choose to be a controller at any point, although the manual recommends mastering... er... pilotation first. It doesn't really make a lot of difference though, as you have to fly with the mission anyway, and ultimately you won't care if you get shot down because you, the controller, live on. The strategy side is a bit of a let-down all round really. You never get the kind of numbers of planes to deal with that make it anything other than a series of single missions, and you never really feel like you're running a war.
Sound and vision
(Original. I like it. Ed.) The graphics are pretty stark, when it comes down to it. Ground detail is minimal, which probably explains why it runs so smoothly on a relatively low-spec pc. and even when you're supposed to be facing up to ten or twelve planes you don't actually see that many on-screen. It's a bit like being in one of those Shakespearean theatre battles that take place just the other side of the curtain.
The sound is workman-like, without being inspired in any way - the only thing of note is that the "screaming to your death" noise when being shot down is pretty impressive through a standard pc speaker. I kept flying into my wingmen just to hear it again. Sweeping generalisations time.
So it's a game that tries to combine the thrills and spills of aerial combat with large chunks of tactics and strategy. Unfortunately the aerial combat is run-of-the-mill, and the strategy is limited. There are plenty of other games that can provide the former, and one or two that can provide the latter. I can't think of any reason why anyone would want to buy it. unless they are unfortunate enough to look like one of the characters in the game and desperate to feel really involved in a flight-sim.
I'm not quite sure where Kent got its I reputation from, but whoever decided it was a pretty little place wasn't looking at it from the vantage point of a Spitfire's cockpit. There are very few things down there that look like they could be described as floral in nature, and the overall effect is less that of the Garden of England than of a large municipal car park - albeit a green-painted one. This goes a long way towards explaining why the Spitfires seem to have been camouflaged by Piet Mondrian.
The Fat Controller
As a controller you supposedly have an important strategic role to play in the outcome of this heckish war, what with allocating one freshly-manufactured plane every two days to an airfield (yawn) and directing the whole defence initiative (four flights of planes) for the south of England as a British controller, or deciding on the relative importance of strategic targets and wiping them out (again, with only four flights) as the German equivalent. There being only two planes in a flight, you're hardly dealing with the kind of numbers you'd hoped for when you took the job. It's a bit like being a Docklands estate agent.