Top American software house Electronic Arts, which established itself in Britain last autumn, has finally released a Spectrum product - PHM Pegasus, one of the flashy, complicated simulations for which the company is famous. But this is no ordinary flight or driving simulation: PHM stands for 'patrol hydrofoil missile craft'.
The eponymous PHM Pegasus is a hydrofoil, a fast, light craft that hardly touches the water's surface. The hull of a hydrofoil is supported high above the waves by fin-like vanes which minimise friction and improve the craft's efficiency - deadly efficiency where PHM Pegasus is concerned.
With basic training complete, you're flung into sea combat against other vessels, at first in training missions, and later in a series of increasingly difficult forays. Fleeing terrorists must be intercepted, two missile corvettes sought and destroyed, vital convoys escorted through dangerous waters and a secret photographic mission undertaken.
Though the game title suggests a single craft, you can choose to command any one of three NATO hydrofoils from the US, Israel and Italy.
Your hydrofoil operates in two states. In manoeuvre mode a large-scale sea-and-land map of the operational area appears onscreen, marking the positions of your craft, enemy forces, and friendly bases and controllable back-up helicopters. Information about the hydrofoil's speed, the time remaining for your mission, and the speed at which the game is set to run is displayed beneath.
In weapons mode, the operational map is replaced by a view from the hydrofoil's bridge, showing the sea ahead - and any enemy craft.
Beneath this is the instrument console of PHM Pegasus. At the centre is the vessel's radar screen indicating enemy shipping within a 40-mile range, and there 's a gyrocompass and depth indicator for navigational purposes. Engine revs, the hydrofoil's speed and its fuel level are displayed on bar indicators.
Your hydrofoil carries a cannon, chaff rockets to deflect oncoming enemy missiles, and Gabriel, Exocet or Harpoon missiles. Weapon system displays indicate the weapon currently engaged and how much ammunition remains.
When weaponry is activated, a binocular view of the prospective target appears at the top of the screen, and a gun sight can be focused on the enemy vessel within it. Aim-correctors at the sides of the binocular view help greater accuracy, though a missile automatically locks onto its target when fired.
On certain missions, one or two reconnaissance helicopters can be called up to supplement your resources and provide invaluable help. They're directed by positioning onscreen cross hairs over their destination and setting their speed.
A 'lock' light provides ominous warning that an enemy missile has, or is about to, lock on to the vulnerable Pegasus - and in the damage sector of PHM Pegasus's console two profiles of your hydrofoil and its watertight compartments monitor the effect of enemy attacks. When one of the compartments is damaged, it is coloured yellow or red, depending upon the seriousness of the damage.
Weaponry, fuel and systems can become inefficient or useless when damaged. and different NATO vessels can withstand different amounts of damage before sinking.
Points are awarded based on your success in achieving the mission objective. the number of enemy kills, the number of enemy craft damaged and the mission time remaining - and there's a bonus for bringing PHM Pegasus through its difficult mission with as little damage as possible.
At the end of each mission the player is given a rank, ranging from Deck-Mopper to Admiral.
'Like most battle simulations, PHM Pegasus demands a thorough read of the technical manual - so it should appeal to strategy buffs, if not so much to straightforward zappers. The graphics are good, with the various dials and meters clear and well set out, and the binocular view of enemy ships is effective.'
MARK ... 79%
'Naval combat isn't used much in games, which makes this one original and fresh. There are some nice slick touches, such as the view through binoculars, and lots to do. But each function is easy to understand and operate, though I started out as Deck-Mopper and finished as Deck-Mopper... PHM Pegasus is the Elite of the seas and a state-of-the-art simulation.'
NATHAN ... 87%
'What looked like another rather highbrow naval combat simulation proved to be the standard Lucasfilm product -a 3-D shoot- 'em-up - at sea. So the idea is a good one, and some 'real-life' missions add spice. The controls are well designed and laid out simply. But the control-panel graphics are let down by the representations of the enemy ships, which are virtually unidentifiable even through binoculars. And the view from the bridge seems to have the wrong perspective, which knocks the all-important realism. Add to that the repetitive action - blast a ship and move on to the next one till they eventually get round to blasting the bilge out of you - and Lucasfilm's product is a little lacking in polish and addictiveness. PHM Pegasus is not the team's best job of blending arcade and simulation.'
PAUL ... 70%
: a well-set-out display, but indistinct enemy shipsSound
: atmospheric - ie few spot effectsOptions
: choice of eight missions and three boats; playable in real time or at any of seven other speeds, up to 128 times real timeGeneral Rating:
Lucasfilm captures the excitement of guiding a gunship - PHM Pegasus should appeal to all ageing Elite fans.
A simulation with a difference - this time it's a high-tech hydrofoil.
'The Elite of the seas' or 'lacking polish and addictiveness'?