Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Game 16: Hellcat Ace

Name:Hellcat Ace
Genre:Flight Sim
Time:1 hour

The Commodore 64 was far before my time and I never bothered emulating one before now. This is, of course, because of the machine's reputation as an arcade-style game machine, with some text adventures thrown in. This is not entirely true, seeing as the machine has some 10,000 odd games. That's more than the PS2, Wii and DS, currently thought of as the shovelware kings*. Depending on whether or not these games are in a single zip file or not, you could put them on a CD or a DVD. With this in mind, it isn't surprising I've started with the first game on the console according to my list. I have no strong feelings here in either direction.
Hellcat Ace, is of course, the first game of Sid Meier, the American McGee of strategy games. Before F-15, before the '80s were anything but the '70s without disco, flared pants and big ties. I don't really know what people in 1982 thought modern warfare would be like, beyond not Vietnam. I don't really know what it would be like, so WWII seems like a good idea. Remember, this is 1982, so there weren't 100 other WWII games on the market. Not ones where you flew a plane or even felt the action. Of course, this was 1982, where you didn't really know how to make a game for the home market. The manual for the Atari 8-bit computer mentions using two joysticks. Great. That's just what I wanted. I don't have two joysticks, let's just home my joystick with another stick on top does the trick.
I am offered several missions that I'm sure anyone who knows the history of the Pacific front of WWII, but I do not. I know a few of them. Let me try the first mission. Ohf, this is confusing, my joystick isn't doing anything. Maybe I should press the button?
Wow, you can practically hear what score I'm going to give the controls to this game! You're supposed to use two joysticks in this version too, but here's the kicker, joy 1 is effectively joy 2 and joy 2 is effectively joy 1. What this should mean is I should have my keyboard as joystick 1 and my actual joystick as joystick 2. I don't really care though, I don't think it'll effect anything too much. There's also some obnoxious "Japanese" music that I don't know the name of. Okay, let's do this properly this time.
Three bursts of bullets later and I've won the mission. What. More obnoxious music. Next up, Pearl Harbor.
This one is actually troublesome. I couldn't get a bead on him this time, tried speeding up, accidentally bailed. Why do we even need a bailout function in a game this old? Second time? Blamo. Next, Wake Harbor, against a fighter this time. Will it be a challenge?
Once again, the Japanese face defeat in a one-against-one contest in which they never shoot at me. Next, Coral Sea. Ha, nothing but hits. Next...
Oh, this isn't going to be easy, is it?
Wow, that's really lame.
I've given up on trying to give a blow-by-blow of this, each mission is effectively the same. Any difficulty is in wrangling the controls.
Then comes the mission against Admiral Yamamoto. The difficulty thing is not really any different here, except that Yamamoto flies around like a madman and takes more damage than any other plane so far. He actually shoots back. That doesn't change the source of difficulty, that changes the level. We're not really in the good kind of game, really, but this is at least a surprise. Will the next mission offer a similar surprise? No, we're back to the same old. But Leyte Gulf, that says fighterS, plural. Oh, I'm sorry, that was a lie. Iwo Jima, shoot down the Japanese Ace, same freaking thing. Kamikaze, today's Japanese sentence is Massugu Na No Jigoku. Straight to Hell. As in, that fight got sent Massugu Na No Jigoku. The difficulty is ramping up, but that depends on the level setting, not the actual mission.
You know what happens when you win the final mission? It loops. There could be a difference if you beat all the missions in one go. I don't care.

A single gun. 1/10

A single plane. 0/10

None 0/10

Despite day and night missions, different altitudes, there's no difference between anything. 0/10

Player Agency:
If 1/4th of your control scheme involves an eject button, even if I'm sure the actual C64 had a more appropriate joystick, you need to fix it. Otherwise, its okay in flight sim terms. 3/10

None. 0/10

None. 0/10

The game looks very weird. The moon turns with you, the plane doesn't look quite right, nor does the horizon. 1/10

None. 0/10

I don't mind the Atari sound effects, but I do mind whatever the godawful music was in this. 0/10

5. That's 5. While I suppose it's more playable than some higher up on the score list, its also less of a shooter.

*Realistically, Windows now kicks the ass of all of them, solely due to Steam. Yeah, there's tons of crap before that, but Steam made it so you could make money off releasing garbage. Actual garbage, not just low-quality crap. But its not really a problem unless you seek it out. If you're a player that is, if you're a developer...

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