There seems to be an assumption among software house that if you want a simulation-type game rather than a plain ordinary shoot-'em-up, you're prepared to pay a fortune for it.
Hewson - with its new budget label Rack-It - thinks otherwise, and with Ocean Conqueror proves that detailed simulations can be inexpensive, and can also retain enough arcade elements to enthral the dedicated blasters.
Ocean Conqueror puts you in control of a submarine whose mission it is to disrupt enemy supply lines by sinking freighters. To make things move a little faster than they do with more stodgy sub-simulators like Microprose's Silent Service, there's a time limit of eighteen game hours in which you have to clear an entire sector and then return to home base.
The view through the periscope is presented in animated wire frame graphics. The game starts at home base (so don't launch a torpedo or rush full steam ahead - back out slowly or you'll do more than chip your paintwork).
The admirably detailed control panel includes status indicators for throttle, ballast tanks, battery charge, motor in use, rudder angle, hydroplane angle, and ammunition among others. Although this gives you a lot of control keys to remember, things are easier if you use a joystick for direction control and missile firing.
You have two forms of armament. Torpedos, which are not steerable, and guided missiles which of course are (but which are in shorter supply). There's a nice fly-by-wire display showing fuel and altitude when you launch a missile, which is pretty reminiscent of Starglider.
Tracking down the targets is done with the aid of a realistic cathode-ray type radar display, which can operate in two ranges, and a map, which of course shows the positions of fixed points such as drilling rigs and lighthouses, but not of ships. A co-ordinate table locates these, as well as your home docks.
A time compression mode is used to speed what would otherwise be hours spent steaming across the huge playing area to the next target. You can't use it to outrun enemy missiles or torpedos, though!
Ocean Conqueror is perhaps too inaccurate to satisfy total simulator buffs, and too complex for those seeking a straightforward shoot-'em-up. However, if you're after something which neatly combines elements of expensive simulations and the excitement of Starglider at a bargain price, this could be exactly what you're looking for.
Author: Peter Vitray, Lajos Palanki
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
Neat budget simulator offering a good blend of complexity and playability. Sacrifices some accuracy for action.