Product: Aeronautical Dogfight 2
Publisher: Ultrasoft
Compatibility: Acorn Electron
Reviewed by: Dave E
Originally published in EUG #48

This is one of the fullest and most recent public domain releases on the BBC/Electron market. It is a two-player game only which requires both players to crowd around the keyboard in order to get to their respective keys. (That said, it is completely unprotected, so adept programmers could easily add a joystick routine or use one of the interrupt driven utilities published in Electron User.)

The objective of this aircraft simulation is to blast your friend out of the sky. There's a bit more depth to it though - in fact, quite incredible depth for a PD game - and you are allowed to decide in which airplane to combat and what missiles to equip it with. You can scroll through colourful Mode 1 pictures of each of the six planes and their statistics but, while good, this makes choosing the plane is a bit fiddly as you need to remember the statistics until you get back to the screen allowing purchase.

It's also just as fiddly to equip the plane; you frequently overload it and, instead of allowing you to make an alternative choice for the final weapon, you are forced to choose all the missiles all over again! It only really causes a problem for a few moments though as you soon decide on the best plane and can select it and ammunition in just a few seconds.

Then off into the skies...

Aeronautical Dogfight 2 is a 3D simulation written by a master of PD BBC software Adam Sandman. His first venture on the Electron, this is not an arcade jaunt but a 3D simulation along the lines of the Hewson simulators. The whole screen is constantly changing and there are two line horizons, one for each player, within windows, suitably distinguished from one another. As each player rolls their plane from left to right, the horizon tilts quite realistically.

Player one has the top half of a Mode 4 screen, player two takes the bottom. Each have instrument panels and bearing references of each plane in relation to the other. Immediate account of the actions is taken and players are reminded of the keys before the duel commences. But listing the code reveals at once the thousands of calculations that go on between each screen cycle and explains why the program is so painfully slow. Even if both players immediately turn to face one another, it takes over two minutes to get a good sight! Additionally, enabling the Master RAM Board does speed up the action noticeably, but has the unfortunate side-effect of crashing some instrument readings.

You can do a lot of things with it but for gameplay, it cannot stand on a standard Electron and seems to have been converted just from the BBC Micro version [Also slow! - Ed] with more suitable keys substituted. Yet the loading screen, plane statistics and graphics cannot be faulted. In particular, watch out for an amazing introductory sequence with inventive Mode 2 colour switching deceiving the eye into seeing six flying stars weave into a circle!

With the elimination of the instrument panel crash bug on the MRB, this would be a nice simulation - despite the limited numbers of people who would have the equipment to make it a viable purchase.