The game Gauntlet should not have been missed by anyone in the 80s, as it was a huge hit in the arcades and was ported to all known home computers. Into the Eagle's Nest is therefore, at first glance, just another clone that wanted to participate in the ongoing success of slaying enemies from a bird's eye perspective, of course. But without the various attempts to surpass the original, the evolution of computer games would not be as diverse as it actually is.
While Gauntlet is set in a fantasy world full of monsters, Into the Eagle's Nest shifts the setting to a very concrete moment in German history, which I generally describe as a WW2 scenario. On the cover, the English title written in the old Germanic font and the German Wehrmacht soldiers in front, are only hinting at the enemy. The introductory words mention a “hostile” commander of a fortress, into whose hands three fellow saboteurs have fallen.
The mission is nevertheless clear: to free the three captured soldiers in a fortress heavily guarded by German forces as a lone fighter and then blow up the building. It should be mentioned that you can also blow up the castle directly without freeing your comrades first. However, this means missed points on the high score.
The fortress, which apparently resembles the Kehlsteinhaus in the Bavarian Alps, has 4 floors. To use the lift, the appropriate pass has to be found on the respective floor. Enemies on the floor can never be completely wiped out, as they respawn again and again based on a timer. Likewise, the floor is completely reset when the lift is used.
Each of the soldiers who appear in huge crowds take exactly two shots to be killed. The maximum capacity of the rifle is 99. This means that you can kill no more than 50 enemies before ammunition is urgently needed to reload. Therefore, the strategic approach is obviously appropriate: you shoot your way from one ammunition depot to the next and take whatever is lying around. Rations or medipacks for life energy, diamonds from treasure chests, valuable paintings, vases, jewellery and very important: keys to get through certain doors.
The actual targets – i.e. the hostages – are randomly allocated on the floors and make a long search process necessary in most cases. They also have limited life energy, which should last the entire way back to the lift and from the ground floor to the exit.
The detonation of the fortress is much easier to plan: the detonators can be found on each floor in a fixed position and getting activated by a well-aimed shot. You literally should aim well, because there are lots of dynamite boxes right next to them. After the activation, you can simply leave the fortress without the pressure of some sort of countdown.
At the time, the average player probably never freed even one of the three hostages or even caused the castle to be blown up, as the difficulty level was unfortunately quite poorly proportioned. In my estimation, you would need at least 10,000 points of life energy for a realistic chance, instead of just 99. The level maps that appeared in magazines in those days actually had white spots in some places where no one had ever gone before. Despite the lack of any achievement at mission level, Into the Eagle's Nest was able to entertain for a while with its mindless shooting of Nazi soldiers and received quite good reviews.
The WW2-scenario is graphically captured in a charming way and also has funny components, such as the defenceless officers at their desks that you can simply shoot like a trophy.
I particularly like the Amstrad CPC version reviewed here, because of one deviation from all other ports: it has the special feature that you can see the statistical values such as health status and ammunition only via the pause screen. This reserves the entire screen for the gameplay, which is otherwise permanently covered by an ugly status bar on the right-hand side.
The sound is quite sparse in the Amstrad version. During the game, you can hear the sounds of footsteps and shooting, and only in the start menu, it provides fashionable military music.
Today, of course, the game no longer really arouses anyone’s interest and there is only the nostalgic appeal of storming through the levels with the invulnerability-cheat and blowing up the castle at last. Nevertheless, Into the Eagle's Nest achieved a kind of secret cult status on the Amstrad CPC, as the Gauntlet-feeling in this special WW2-scenario was simply far more fascinating for many gamers of that time. In 2020, it even received a homage called SGT. Helmet Training Day, which is much fairer to play.
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