Simon R. Mansfield
ZX Spectrum 48K

Chris Bourne

Admiral Graf Spee is a sea battle simulation set in the early days of the Second World War. The Graf Spee, of course, was the German pocket battleship which became famous when the British cornered her in Montevedeo after the Battle of the River Plate. The action of the game takes place before this, when she roved the Atlantic, sinking shipping almost at will.

You are presented with a map showing land on either side and sea in the middle.

The map shows your position (the Graf Spee), and the position of enemy shipping. It does not tell you whether these blips are armed or unarmed ships. To the right of the map you are given a display indicating your speed, fuel in tons, heading, amount of shells and torpedoes left, and your present position.

You can now plot your course to the nearest enemy by the compass rose set into the map by using keys 1-8 (1 being NW, 2 being N and so on round to 8 being W). The map then shows your movement at the 18 knots present. Once in the vicinity of your enemy you press Search, whereupon the map screen changes to a view of the sea, and the display also indicates the target's distance in yards. You must now hunt around, following the enemy ship's position until she hoves into view.

Command inputs are done by a finicky menu: fire torpedoes, fire guns, turn ship, decrease speed, increase speed. Successfully bringing the enemy into view results in his smoke appearing over the horizon, followed by the stacks superstructure and finally the hull. As soon as you are within range you may fire either guns or use torpedoes.

If the enemy turns out to be armed, he will begin firing as soon as you are within his range. You can see the gun flashes on the screen followed by the water splashes for near misses.

The whole screen flashes if you take a hit, and the percentage of damage done is shown at the base of the screen.

Depending on the level of play chosen, there are more or less heavily armed ships to fight against.

It seems a pity this program couldn't have been written in machine code, which might have resulted in more sophisticated graphics and a better response speed.

There was some disagreement between our reviewers, one of whom thought the graphics were poor, another considered them to be fine.

The water splashes are very blocky, as are the ship silhouttes. But the two most serious problems with the program are ones of playing.

Firstly, no warship ever comes to a halt unless it is absolutely forced by circumstances. Yet in Graf Spee you must bring the ship to a standstill in order to succesfully fire at and hit an enemy. When we started playing, the first two enemy ships seemed to keep darting about like gadflies, and we were unable to keep them in sight for the time it took to input the new direction. Slowing down seemed to make life slightly easier, but only stopping forward movement altogether made it possible to keep the ship in sight long enough to go through the lengthy menu to fire the guns.

The second quibble is that if the enemy ships begin firing, there is nothing you can do until he breaks off for a moment. You must be ready to punch the menu input required, and then the particular commands required, which mean slowing down, turning the ship, selecting guns or torps and firing. In between each gap the enemy may start firing again and you must sit there and be hammered until another break occurs.


'The keyboard play was quite slow to respond, and when the game speeds up in an attack, there are many keys to use.'

'Not unlike a naval Star Trek game, so anyone who likes those will probably find this enjoyable. Given the limitations of memory and the basic program, the graphics are reasonably imaginative and effective.'

'There are some good tunes in this game, and the whole would be better if good graphics were used and perhaps some machine code. But it's quite playable.'

Keyboard positions: Complex, but good instructions
Joystick options: none
Keyboard play: slowish
Use of colour: average
Graphics: good
Sound: good
Skill levels: seven
Lives: you can sustain up to 99% damage - then it's kaput!

General Rating: Reasonably good of its type.


Screenshot Text

The map screen from ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE.