It is 1942. War is raging in the Pacific and the enemy - presumably the Japanese, though the program studiously avoids saying so - is building up both its fleet and its air force.
You've been sent on a single-handed search and destroy mission - your objective, to shoot down as many enemy planes as possible.
1942 is the latest hot arcade conversion from Elite - hot on the heals of its Commando and Ghosts 'n' Goblins No 1 hits.
The basic scenario will be familiar if you've seen the Cliff Robertson film Battle of Midway. The game itself is derived from the Japanese (appropriately enough) Capcom coin-op firm.
The program keeps pretty much to the style of the Capcom game. It's a top-to-bottom scrolling blast.
You start off on an aircraft carrier. Take off and head out over the ocean and almost at once, the first enemy planes appear.
They come in a variety of shapes and colours. Small red planes fly fairly predictable holding patterns and are easy to shoot down. Small blue planes are less organised and have the annoying habit of shooting back.
Then there's a medium sized blue plane. It's slightly slower and less manoeuvrable than the smaller fighters, but you'll have to hit it a number of times before you succeed in destroying it. When it starts glowing red, you will know 'big blue' is in trouble. Another couple of hits and it will be sure to blow.
And small black planes are definitely nasty. They tend to appear in pairs, appearing on opposite sides of the screen. Some are flown by suicidal pilots who will crash into you if you fail to shoot them down. They're also armed.
Survive long enough and a large, slow black plane appears at the bottom of the screen. Reminiscent of a B52 bomber. It flies slowly straight up the centre of the screen and a rear gunner sprays out bullets in its wake.
The trick to beating it is to manoeuvre your plane behind this great black shark of the skies. Then, you dodge its bullets, while pumping shots into it as fast as possible. If you don't hit it enough times, the enemy planes will reach the top of the screen, where it will weave from side to side, still firing backwards. Then it's a case of who gets who first.
Things are not all negative. From time to time 'POW' capsules floating down the screen which give you extra fuel, fire-power and so on for your plane - if you manage to fly into them. Eventually - if you stay alive long enough - your aircraft carrier will reappear scrolling from the top of the screen. Landing on the carrier happens automatically when you get within range, it earns you a significant bonus and the chance of a quick respite and ends the first level. Take off again, this time on the second level.
It's possible to play 1942 using the keyboard - just about - but I doubt that anyone without a joystick will survive for long. Complicated aerobatic manoeuvres, such as looping the loop, are controlled from the keyboard.
What's it like as a game? The concept is very simple - its arcade origins are clear from its straightforward scrolling zapping style. The graphics are adequate, but nothing too special. Sound is average.
But shoot 'em up addicts will find themselves glued to the screen.
1942 has the magic ingredient - you'll always be coming back for more. It's good.
Reviewer: Brenda Gore
A simple idea, simply programmed. But the gameplay is gripping. A taught aerial dog-fight drama for all Red Barons.
The black bomber invulnerable to attack. Almost.
Attack! Different coloured planes have distinct patterns.