for ZX Spectrum

Alternate Titles: Thunderbird
Company: Digital Integration
Year: 1985
Genre: Simulation
Theme: Flight / War
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 10653
Review by Moebius (2016-02-03)

AH-64A Apache is US army's primary combat helicopter designed to perform efficient air-to-air and ground attacks while exercising outstanding swiftness and manoeuvrability. It can perform its duties during day and nighttime as well as withstand a range of hostile weather conditions. Armed with 30mm chain gun, 38 rockets, 8 laser guided missiles it makes an imposing threat to enemy forces. In the cockpit you are to complete a row of missions which set you to track and eliminate enemy ground targets such as tanks and field guns occupying various map sectors. Meanwhile you must watch out for enemy aircrafts and engage them if necessary.

Let me start off by saying that there weren't really many flightsims on Spectrum, and those few that existed were, in all truth, hardly ever playable. Granted, there is little to expect from Spectrum or 80s in general when it comes to any type of 3D simulation. Poor scenery and textureless backgrounds, sketchy and transparent objects, terrible jerky framerates and overall dubious experience as a result is the hallmark of all 80s sims. However, you could always pick something more or less edible, as it were, out of this refuse heap, and Tomahawk here is a fine candidate for “The least of all shits” contest. What really puts this game ahead of its contemporary rivals is alluring though simple concept, comparatively good physics and pretty cool sound effects, which for a Spectrum buzzer were quite impressive, especially the helicopter engine sound.

Ok, the graphical aspect of the game is as previously stated, of little if any relevance at all since Tomahawk fits perfectly its own timeline visually speaking. Barren landscapes, flat triangular trees, occassional mountains, - all looking like identical set of props - is pretty much all you get to see here, and the only texture is ground dots which only appear at particular mark of altitude. Swell enough, most games didn't even give you that, where you could only rely on altimeter. Also, there is no external or any other views that can be used here except the cockpit view, which for such an early simulator is only a natural limitation. Anyway, this game here, wretched and unimpressive as it is, is truly one of the best, if not, in fact, THE best flight simulator on Spectrum, which might perhaps beget a question in your mind “If THIS is the best, then what is the rest like?!”, the answer is: you don't wanna know.

Luckily, in this game you don't have to spend hours to start the engines and get off the ground. This is admittedly one of its few but significant advantages. However, during the flight you have to balance the speed and altitude, which are, of course, interdependent. You must constantly watch the altimeter lest you hit the ground, which is quite easily achieved, especially if distracted. There is also a danger of getting your engines overheated, damaged and completely failed if the blades rotation speed (torque) is set and kept at maximum for an extensive interval of time. Also, you run out of fuel, just as your ammo supply isn't perpetual. The steering is a little more sensitive than expected, but not critically. Landing is as usual tricky - you just got to drop the speed somehow and that may appear impossible at first. Let's just say, it's a delicate combination of torque speed and certain breaking manoeuvres which may take a while to master.

The 1st mission is a training campaign where you practice flight and ground attack skills. Noone shoots from the ground. In the remaining 3 missions you must neutralize ground targets (which will now return fire) while combating enemy copters, clear hostile sectors and support allies in the battle against enemy artillery. Each cleared sector enables you to use additional landing pads in order to refuel, repair and rearm your aircraft. You navigate using a map which reveals enemy positions as red and allies as green, as well as approaching copters and landing pads.The various ranks in the selection menu are different levels of difficulty, where the higher the level the less failed attacks on the part of your enemies. Day & Night modes as well as various weather conditions are also supplements to game difficulty and as such are optional.

What I particularly admire about this game is that your adversary is literally incognito. The enemy tanks and helicopters are of unknown model and origin, so whoever it is, it's up to you to imagine. Meaning, you're up against nobody in pure political sense, and that I deem wonderful. Politics is politics and entertainment is entertainment, and it's sad to see this principle violated sometimes.

Comments (1) [Post comment]