1 player, horizontal game
Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx
Once again, the Lynx dares to go where other portable game systems fear to tread, with an adaptation of STEEL TALONS, the arcade helicopter flight simulator. Your objective is to fly a military chopper through twelve filled- polygon missions, blowing away enemy armaments and camps while staying alive. Each of your four helicopters can take a small number of hits, and the battle computer and instruments provide lots of information, but in the end it takes skill and strategy to win. Are you up to the challenge?
Confession time -- when I heard that STEEL TALONS was being adapted for the Lynx, I shuddered in fear. After all, the last attempt at a polygon simulator was the very disappointing HARD DRIVIN'. If the Lynx couldn't handle a car, how much worse would a helicopter simulation be? Surprise! STEEL TALONS is a LOT of fun to play, and represents the cutting edge of Lynx software technology. John Sanderson and NuFX have learned a lot from their earlier effort, and this title is to be commended.
Three features from the arcade game have been removed from the Lynx: The ability to play two players simultaneously, the use of fuel limits, and the option to completely simulate an Apache helicopter's control set (the arcade default used simplified controls to make flying easier). Otherwise, everything else is preserved. You have control of your speed, altitude, and heading, and instruments show everything from structural integrity to ammo remaining to the location of you and your targets. The game can be seen either from behind your chopper, or from the cockpit for double points. The instruction manual is a little sparse on details, leaving players more about the game to discover.
The steering yolk, pedals, and stick of the original STEEL TALONS have been streamlined; all of the Lynx's buttons are used, alone and combined, to give you total control. Learning the scheme takes about ten minutes, but it's a worthy investment. Unlike HARD DRIVIN', everything is properly responsive and the controls are reasonable. One quirk that may confuse some players is that "flight" controls are not used; pressing up takes you higher, not lower. This shouldn't bother most players, however.
Overall, the game is fairly hard and challenging, and careless players will be quickly decimated. Missions are progressively difficult, ranging from a training run to night hunting to weaving through tall canyons. Each mission is timed, and finishing a mission fast enough earns bonuses. You have a set number of machine gun rounds, rockets, and guided missiles, with the battle computer finding targets and helping your aim. You'll soon completely lose yourself in the action, strafing targets and destroying tanks effortlessly.
The graphics and sound on STEEL TALONS will please most players. The game action is rendered with filled-polygon graphics, drawing enemies and hills along with trees, clouds, and rivers. The screen is updated at about four frames a second; while it's not as fast as a dedicated machine, it's more than sufficient and doesn't hurt the game at all. Instruments are visible without obscuring the view; other graphics, like the terrain maps and the high score table, are drawn very nicely.
There are not a wide variety of sounds, but the ones that are present are used appropriately. The drumming of your chopper's blades fill the skies, mixed with the rattle of the machine guns and the hiss of missiles. Klaxons and chimes warn of radar lock and enemy hits, all punctuated with assorted explosions. Finally, there's a somewhat garbled voice giving you tips before each mission, and some nicely-done musical tunes sprinkled throughout.
Purists who wanted nothing short of a total, unabridged translation will be disappointed. For everyone else, though, STEEL TALONS on the Lynx is a joy to play, a very pleasant surprise, and a Herculean effort to be saluted. If the idea of realistic air combat action stirs your blood, buy this game and take off!
GAMEPLAY: 9.5 GRAPHICS: 9.5 SOUND: 8.5 OVERALL: 9.5