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Electronic Arts
Stefan Walker
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K

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Tony Dillon
Chris Bourne

The sky's the limit, or so they say. But is it? If a man builds a machine to take him up into the air, how can he tell how far it will take him? Is the sky really the limit? Or will his new X-16784b/7 take him further? There is only one true way to find out, and that's to experiment. Now, a professional aeronautical engineer, highly trained and paid, isn't going to risk his neck going to the edge of the atmosphere to see whether the brand spanking new untested craft is going to fall apart when gravity falls away. That's where good old Chuck Yeager comes in. Test pilot and America's favourite hero. Chuck has test flown just about everything there is, and now he's giving you the chance to try your hand in Electronic Arts latest release.

Fly a choice of 14 different aircraft through some perillous airspace in the mysterious land of EA-world. Some of the craft are old favourites, like the Cessna and the Spitfire. Even my personal favourite, the SR-71 Blackbird is in there, the fastest plane in the sky, so fast it defies radar and has an almost negligible turning rate. Fly along a slalom of huge black monoliths, weave over and under gates along the ground, or why not just try landing?

As you may, or may not, have noticed, Chuck is displayed via filled vectors. Now, to the best of my knowledge, filled vectors can be done, but only at a decent rate if the shapes are simple, with the exception of the opening screen of Carrier Command. The items in Chuck are multi-faceted, and I mean multi. This means that the game moves along at a snail's pace, already damaging the playability. It would have worked if the game had been drawn with hidden line vectors, but no, EA had to try to do filled, and it just hasn't worked as well as it might.

But, back to the game. The first thing you notice is that the controls are slightly odd. In the centre of your viewing window, whichever view you happen to be using at the time, you have a crosshair. On screen you also have a small rectangle. This gives you an immediate pictorial representation of the position of ailerons and rudder, taking the cross hair as centred. You fly by moving the box around the screen, which is decidedly tetchy, but worth getting used to. The first thing you have to learn is that box centred doesn't automatically mean straight and level flight, just that the plane will no longer pitch and yaw. If, however, the plane is banked when you return the box to centre, the plane will continue to bank.

I don't like the feel of Chuck Yeagers, and no that's not a slur on the Spectrum version. I've seen them all, including Chuck 2.0 on a superfast PC, and I still didn't like the feel. It's too easy to overcompensate and reaction times are slow. I just can't see it being an accurate simulation, that's all.

You lucky, lucky 128K owners. For your money, you get all planes and locations loaded in at once, along with a menu of five wonderful things to choose from, including test flying, formation flying and racing against other planes. 48K owners aren't so lucky. For a start, they only get test flying. Also, only one plane can be loaded in at a time. All the other planes are held on tape in a tortuous pergatory of multi-load. That's why I've included two sets of scores for playability and lastability. The first is for the 48 version and the second for the 128.

Chuck wasn't made for a Speccy. Maybe with a bit of a snip and a tuck, the old timer could have taught us some new tricks. As it is, it falls just a little too low on the playability scales to be any fun.

Label: EA
Author: Stefan Walker
Price: £8.95/£14.95
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Tony Dillon

Chuck doesn't really get off the ground.

67% (48K)
72% (128K)
69% (48K)
75% (128K)
69% (48K)
74% (128K)

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Don't fly at full throttle for more than a few seconds at a time. You won't be able to take it and you'll soon black out. Blacking out is a bad thing.

IN the unfortunate event of you finding yourself in a blackout situation, wrench the joystick in exactly the OPPOSITE direction to the position it was in when the blackout occurred. If you're lucky (and fast enough), this move will get you out of any spin.

When you're taking off, make sure that you keep the stick held back all the time. Your nose may well tip forward and smash itself to pieces on the runway otherwise. Smashing your nose to pieces on the runway is a bad thing.