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Heinemann
1984
Educational
£9.95
Multiple languages (see individual downloads)
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

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64
Roger Keane
Chris Bourne

This is a simulation game in the Heinemann educational series of games. Yet it actually rides up into the airy atmosphere of a game playable as a game and not as a learning vehicle.

If the price seems a little steep it may be because of the packaging, which comes in the form of an A4 sized book within a plastic holder. The 18-page colour book contains a fair amount of information relating to lighter-than-air balloon history, and is illustrated with drawings, monochrome and colour photographs relating to diverse subjects such as the Hindenburg disaster and why it happened, the use of balloons today in advertising and how to plan a hot air balloon flight.

Thus also plenty of detail on how to use the program and what to accomplish with it. The game contains a training mode to familiarise the player with controlling the balloon's flight, a test phase, which demands certain tasks to be completed, and a live mission phase, where the player must land, collect items or people and fly them to destinations at specific distances.

There are four balloons to choose from, but their only distinction is the colour of the envelope. Next the level must be selected - training, test, live mission and. finally, the rank of the player (difficulty level), cadet, officer, ace. The screen display is oddly reminiscent of Phipps Associates' The Forest. A blue ground supports a drawn line describing the rise and fall of the ground. Trees, bushes and buildings are nicely drawn in. The balloon should land on flat spots. Initially it must be lifted and flown a short distance before landing to collect a mission.

The missions vary, but taking a doctor to an injured farmer is not uncommon. Getting the best man to a wedding on is another.

Flying the balloon is surprisingly tricky as a task intended for children, is what makes this a serious contender in the adult games market. Four semi-dial instruments at the base of the screen indicate rate of climb or descent, balloon envelope temperature, altitude and fuel remaining for the mission. The balloon moves' by virtue of the scrolling landscape below, and controlling it is done by lighting the burner, or opening the vent at the top of the envelope to let hot air out. Careful control of these two opposing forces is essential to land safely.

On the two higher levels there are a number of hazards which may be encountered like turbulence on landing, instrument failure or the vent being jammed. The program also allows for changes in wind direction (a symbol for a windsock is shown at the top of the screen) which may force you to change heights. Going much above 1,000 will take you out of sight of the ground.

CRITICISM

'Ballooning is a fascinating and compelling game, with the added advantage of colourful and interesting back-up information provided in the package. The result is a pretty tough simulation which should keep a wide range of players happy for hours. I liked it very much.'

'This game is a simulation on ballooning even though it is aimed at the educational market. Once I started playing it became difficult to leave it alone. The essential R.O.C. display temperature of balloon, altitude and fuel gauges are very accurately and well drawn at the bottom of the screen. Flying is great fun over the rugged terrain, as are the tasks to be completed. All the graphics are smoothly moved at a fairly slow, realistic pace. In fact I found this game as much fun to play as Psion's Flight Simulation.'

COMMENTS
Control keys: 1 burner on, 2-burner off.3 vent open. 4 - vent closed, 5 to see your task. 6 returns to instrument
Use of colour: good
Graphics: smooth, detailed, very good
Sound: none
Skill levels: 3
Features: excellent packaging with colour book included
General Rating: A good educational program, which rises to the levels of a compelling game in its own right.

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