US Gold Ltd
1985
Simulation
£9.95
£1.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
SpeedLock 1

14,15
Chris Bourne

You may have read the book, seen the film or made the Airfix model kit but have you actually re-enacted the mission on your Spectrum? No? Well now you can, courtesy of Sydney Development (design), US Gold (distribution) and Platinum Productions (conversion).

Dambusters puts you in full command of one of the Lancaster bombers used in the historic flights across Europe and into Germany, to stem the output of the German Steel Industry (and to kill a few people in the process). Not only do you have to play the part of the pilot in flying the plane, but the roles of gunner, bomb aimer, navigator and even engineer all at once! There are eight screens, one for every role, and each can be 'called up' at any time by pressing the corresponding key.

You can also check your current score and status in the same manner. If any of the 'crew' are experiencing problems of any sort then their respective 'letter' flashes at the bottom of the screen to inform you of the fact.

For example, a gunner under attack from an enemy aircraft would result in a flashing 'W', implying that you should change to Front Gunner immediately.

PILOT
As Pilot you are given an 'out of the cockpit ' view and simply have to steer the plane and keep an eye on airspeed, altitude and heading with the instruments provided. All instrumentation can be displayed as either analogue (dials) or digital (numbers), depending on your bent.

FRONT/TAIL GUNNER
Both screens put you in control of twin 303 FN machine guns (sound pretty smart, eh?) and give you the task of' shooting down any enemy planes and barrage balloons that prove a hindrance, or taking out any spotlights that would give away your position. The Front Gunner also doubles up as the Bomb Aimer. When you are approaching the dam a set of distancing sights appear on screen. These sights must be lined up with the two towers of the dam so that the correct distance between plane and dam can be determined so the bomb can be released accurately.

BOMB AIMER
Before the bomb can actually be dropped it must be 'readied' and the plane must be brought to the correct height and speed. Two spotlights underneath the plane need to be aligned to ensure that you are flying low enough, and this screen is for just that purpose.

NAVIGATOR
Although the Pilot steers the plane, the Navigator does have to point him in the right direction first. A six screen map of Europe is used to follow progress and to set the course for a dam (there are three to bomb). All military installations, airports, inhabited areas and industrial complexes are represented on the map by different coloured symbols and the size of the symbol determines the concentration and/or size of an installation.

FIRST/SECOND ENGINEER
There are two engineer screens, giving access to all main engine controls, landing gear and other relevant gauges etc. The first screen has a throttle, booster and fire extinguisher control for each of the four engines, with gauges to indicate their status.

The second shows the fuel situation for the four engines and allows you to adjust the rudder trim and flaps and raise or lower the landing gear.

STATUS AND DAMAGE REPORT
This screen gives details on any flak hits you have incurred and the number of ME 110 fighters, searchlights and barrage balloons you have encountered and have actually 'taken out'. A summary of any damage to the plane is also given along with your current score.

Should you successfully get across Europe, conduct an approach and release the bomb you will be treated to a picture of the dam with comments on where you went wrong, if indeed you did.

CRITICISM

'The main problem with Dambusters is its playability. The designers seem to have tried to produce a flight simulation with a game, but neither aspect is particularly brilliant. The simulation side of things is good, with enough controls but not much in the way of 'realism' - the feeling of flight is generated only by the detail inside the plane rather than from the external view, as the effect of the dots as a horizon is poor. This is unfortunate, as the gameplay is in fact the weaker element. There is little variety in things to shoot and avoid, and the appeal of the 'one crack' mission soon palls due to the fact that it takes time to fly across Europe to the dam, 'avoiding' flak, barrage balloons and fighters in the Process, only to become very frustrated and despondent when you miss. Still, Dambusters is a good try at something new but fails to work effectively because it tries to cram too much into too little'

'US Gold's attempt to recreate Guy Gibson's famous dam bombing run has resulted in a cross between a simulator and an arcade game. It is difficult to react quickly to any enemy attack because of the need to switch screens to retaliate. When you start, controlling the plane can be a bit of a problem. The game kept telling me that 'turning and flying at low altitude are incompatible'. This meant my wing had been ripped off! The bombing run was the most difficult of all - you need to control several factors at once, all of them very easy to bodge up, Dambusters is quite enjoyable, though sometimes a little dull. Some more action would have improved it no end'

'Dambusters is a brave attempt at a flight simulator/arcade game, the only trouble being that neither aspect of the game is particularly good. There are several really good options, like the facility to practice a bomb run, start in the air over the English Channel or take off from the ground, but the game itself is rather boring. I thought there would be a lot more enemy resistance to a raid which, if completed successfully, would be a major threat to German domination in Europe. The Lancaster is fairly easy to fly and apart from crashing into the ground there are no real problems in staying aloft. The only real tricky bit is actually passing over the dam and dropping the bomb on target. During this part of the game, aligning the Lancaster with the dam is very difficult and fiddly. This results in the whole thing becoming very tedious - reaching the darn is so easy but failing to drop the bomb successfully time after time becomes a bore.'

COMMENTS
Control keys: O - Pilot, W - Front Gunner, E -Tail Gunner, R - Bomb Aimer, Y- First Engineer, U - Second Engineer, I - Status, Damage Report and Score, H - Pause, 1 - Down, O - Up, 8- Left, 0- Right, Bottom Row- Fire
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair, Protek
Keyboard Play: responsive
Use of colour: poor
Graphics: detailed instruments, little else
Sound: average
Skill levels: three
Lives: one
Screens: eight
General Rating: A playable flight simulation and game.

78%
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79%
68%
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75%