Hellcat Ace

Copyright: © 1984 Microprose
Genre: Simulations


Hellcat Ace
One of the earliest flight sim classics from MicroProse, Hellcat Ace was
designed by Sid Meier for Atari and converted to PC by R. Donald Awalt.
Digital Antic stores David Plotkin's excellent review of the Atari
original that applies to PC as well: "Hellcat Ace is an air-combat
simulator, set in the Pactfic theatre during World War II. You are the
pilot of a Hellcat fighter, the U.S. Navy's best carrier-based fighter
through most of the war. Your opponents are Japanese aircraft, both
fighters and bombers. Through the front cockpit window you can see the
sky and ocean. Below the cockpit view is a full instrument panel showing
altitude, engine power, fuel, and rounds of ammunition remaining. A rear
view mirror is also provided so that you can tell when your enemy is on
your tail. As Hellcat begins, you are given a choice from about twenty
scenarios of famous Pactfic battles. Such events as Wake Island, Midway,
Leyte Gulf, and the Marianas' "Turkey Shoot" are included. Once you pick
a scenario, you will be faced with that screen first, and if you survive
it, move on to the next one. You can then pick the level of difficulty as
well as choose to face one or two enemy aircraft. Shooting down the enemy
aircraft ends the scenario, increases your score and number of "kills",
and moves you on to the next screen. A brief description of your mission
comes up on the monitor before the next screen begins. Allowing enemy
aircraft to shoot you down ends the game, although you have a chance to
ditch your aircraft or bail out. Your Hellcat fighter is controlled using
a joystick plugged into slot 1. If you plug a joystick into slot 2, it
controls the throttle (power) to the engine. The simulator flies very
well, turning and banking realistically. As you bank the plane left and
right, the sky/ocean interface tilts, just as it would in a real
aircraft. Pulling back on the stick causes the plane to climb, and
pushing the stick forward causes the plane to dive. Aircraft velocity is
also handled well. The plane gains speed as the altimeter unwinds in a
dive, and you can "stall" your plane if you try to climb too steeply with
too little engine power. A stall (fast loss in altitude and drop of the
nose with resulting increase in speed) can be a good way to shake an
enemy fighter from your tail. Fancy aerobatics are easily done; loops,
barrel rolls, split "S" and Immelman turns are all possible and described
in the instruction manual. The fire button on the joystick plugged into
slot 1 fires short bursts from your wing-mounted machine guns. Although
there is a gunsight cursor, the instructions warn you that this is a
manual gunsight, so you must correct for the effects of gravity, plane
velocity, etc. You do get the feel of how to aim after awhile, but be
prepared to waste a lot of ammunition at first. Multiple hits on the
enemy aircraft are necessary to destroy it, and the number of hits
required increases at the higher skill levels. The enemy aircraft may
turn and attack you, generally from a head-on direction, although if he
stays on your tail long enough he can also shoot you down from behind. If
you are hit, you hear some loud bangs, the screen flickers, and then you
spin. Better luck next time! The instructions say you can bail out by
pressing the fire button on the throttle joystick, but I've never
succeeded. The enemy aircraft are single-color players, which change size
and shape with their distance and orientation. It can be difficult to
determine the enemy's intentions at long range due to the lack of color
and definition of the enemy aircraft. It can also be difficult to tell
that the enemy is firing at you until it is too late. While I suppose
that this situation may simulate real life, I think an enhancement in the
graphics of the enemy aircraft would improve this game. For instance, the
successful destruction of the enemy aircraft is somewhat anticlimatic.
Rather than a brilliant explosion or spinning off the screen, the
aircraft simply disappears with a bang, leaving behind a few bits of
debris. All in all, Hellcat Ace is an effective flight / combat
simulator, responding smoothly to the joystick, and with enough varying
difficulty to interest both and novice and the professional pilot (it was
play tested by members of an Air National Guard Wing). While the graphics
could be improved, the playability of the game is not harmed by this, and
I recommend it to those of you with dreams of glory and the big blue

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