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PSS
1988
Strategy: War
£12.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

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136
Philippa Irving
Chris Bourne

June 5 1944 was the night of action: after a year of secret planning, the British Sixth Airborne Division landed in Nazi-occupied Normandy.

What makes a game based on this operation interesting is that the objectives of capturing and bombing bridges - or defending them - are more important than killing large numbers of enemies, and so the gameplay feels more realistic than usual.

The player is given a choice of sides to play against the computer, which always makes a game more satisfying, and there is a two-player option.

At the beginning of Pegasus Bridge, the British have not yet made their parachute drops and so there are no British units on the map. The German forces are distributed around various rather remote comers, with only a handful of men already positioned near the all-important bridges.

Maps and other information are provided in the booklet and on the screen. The booklet assumes you have a detailed geographical knowledge of the area, which makes things frustrating; as with most computer-wargame maps, what appears on the screen is barely recognisable as landscape.

There are ten different types of terrain, which affect the movement of the troops and the defensibility of particular areas. The Sixth Airborne Division and German forces are both divided into many battalions, with the characteristics of each listed in the booklet.

If you take the German side, your objective is to keep as many key positions as possible till the end of the 36-turn game. But I took the British side, and will describe Pegasus Bridge from that perspective.

The game begins when you give the Sixth Airborne Division clearance to start out for Normandy, though the number of aircraft is not enough for a rapid invasion. The Germans are alerted and hurry to defend the territory they occupied four years earlier.

When controlling the British side, the first thing the player has to do is decide where each unit is going to parachute (later some ground units arrive at positions preset by the program). Landing on open ground is recommended, since landing in towns or woods will divide the unit and make it less effective. But the wind makes things difficult.

Having set enough troops on French soil, the British player ' s task is to capture and hold the river and canal bridges in Caen, to destroy or occupy the five crossings of the river Dives, and to occupy the Merville Battery area.

Movement follows in a straightforward fashion: units, each represented on the screen by very small squares like minute postage stamps, can be stacked and moved together at the speed of the slowest unit in the stack.

Yet it's annoyingly difficult to control the cursor using the keyboard, and great care has to be taken in selecting units and then trying not to overshoot their destination.

Combat operates on similar principles, with strength and weaponry affecting the outcome.

After engaging in combat and capturing a bridge, a British unit can, if it has the means, blow it up. (It's stating the obvious to say that the unit must be removed from the bridge first!) The bridges over the Caen canal and Orne river should be preserved to meet the victory conditions, though.

The booklet is well-written and full of detail, including a description of the course of the actual battle and that useful section called 'author's notes' in which the game's designer defends its idiosyncrasies and points out its more obscure merits.

With matter-of-fact modesty the author comments that the computer opponent is 'neither particularly clever, nor particularly stupid', and points out the precariousness and daring uncertainty of the original operation.

And Pegasus Bridge reflects that rather well. This is a solidly-designed game with an interesting scenario closely based on history and plenty of play in it.

CRITICISM

70%
Annoying key action comes close to ruining the playability.
89%
Excellent - a thorough description of play and the historical background.
70%
Limited by the difficulties of cursor- control.
81%
Attractive, though the unit counters are too small.
80%
Clearly based closely on the historical situation, but unatmospheric.
78%
An interesting challenge and a good game.