PSS
John Bethell
1986
Strategy: War
£7.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

55,56
Sean Masterson
Chris Bourne

This reconstruction of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II's South Pacific campaign is the latest in the Strategic Wargames series vas began with Falklands 82. It uses a system similar to that of its predecessor with full map display at all times, five levels of difficulty, phased order sequences and a game design that follows the PSS philosophy of 'playable' games - games that do not take more than a couple of sessions to complete.

As he did with Falklands, the author has willingly sacrificed some authenticity for the sake of playability. There is logic to this move. A detailed simulation of the conflict would definitely have strained the limits of a Microdrive based game, let alone one on cassette. The game still tries to cover the battle in reasonable depth, however.

The package is simple, consisting of a small cassette case and a booklet of instructions. Loading takes no more than a couple of minutes and once the program is in memory, the first of the aesthetic improvements to Bethell's game system becomes obvious. Everything is menu driven: the player only ever needs to use three keys. In a wargame, there's no reason why this cannot always be the case, as the increase in the speed of interaction between player and computer allows straightforward implementation of a strategy.

All the game functions, from setting the difficulty level to choosing a unit to order and the orders themselves (Move, Attack, Land, Pass) are simply selected from information windows and confirmed. All relevant information on the unit currently selected is also displayed in an information window using an abstract points system. Units have an aggression factor, defence factor, movement factor and a range factor, all of which affect combat ability.

The player (as there is no two player option) must always take the side of the American forces, with the objective of eliminating all the enemy units between turns 32 and 36 (depending on the difficulty level set). The enemy may fortify positions, make suicide attacks If a unit is about to be wiped out and launch air attacks against the carrier force bringing reinforcements and artillery support to your units. As long as the offshore fleet is well defended, weather permitting, you may launch air strikes against the enemy.

Initially, the player must establish a beach head with the first of his units (reinforcements arrive throughout the game) and there are six beaches which may act as landing sites. Many of them are penned in by minefields and so a careful choice must be made as to which units land where. There is no restriction on the number of beaches that may be used, so long as units are not stacked in the same area.

That really sums up the game. Getting into Iwo Jima is an extremely simple process, no doubt because it was designed with beginners in mind. And this brings up the question of why PSS include arcade sequences on their more 'serious ' games and yet exclude them from these introductory efforts. Not that I am advocating their use at all but it does seem rather strange. There is some animation in the game, however. Air strikes by either side are rather crudely depicted by a simple aircraft silhouette that passes over the target area.

There are faults with the system. Air strikes can only be called either after an attack by ground forces or by a unit that deliberately tries to attack whilst out of range. This really could have been made neater. The limited intelligence used in the game seems to be affected only by proximity and not by terrain. Because the designer has decided to make the whole island visible during play, the display size of the units is very small Indeed and when several units are in close proximity, this can lead to confusion.

I can see this game appealing to those who feel daunted by some other companies' more complex offerings and would still like to venture into the area of wargaming. I must stress that its appeal for the more experienced player is likely to be very limited. Because of the way the author has changed historical details in the name of playability, anybody looking for an accurate means of simulating the battle is likely to be very disappointed with this game.

For all that, the final result is playable and PSS are not demanding that you break the bank to obtain a copy. Someone just looking for a way to pass a couple of hours at the keyboard without wanting to risk a migraine may get something from Iwo Jima. For anyone else, steer clear. It probably won't be worth it.

CRITICISM

72%
Well laid out instructions but the map looks slightly crowded.
67%
Great for the beginner but apart from the historical notes (which could have been longer but are still welcome) there is little for the more demanding player.
68%
Easy to get into and good; fast interaction makes the game a doddle to play.
57%
A crisp map of Iwo Jima is let down by poor unit markers and terrain features.
48%
Too much has been left out for playability's sake for this to be considered authentic, but perhaps beginners can overlook this.
41%
Doesn't put up much of a fight.
59%
Cheap, but experienced players would master the game before long.
60%
When I first saw this game on the Commodore, I didn't like it at all. However, its good points have grown on me. This percentage has been given with the beginner in mind.

Screenshot Text

Though small, the map in IWO JIMA is a definite improvement to the one in FALKLANDS. The black boxes are the option and information windows.