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Zeewolf is, in short, a combination of the look and feel of Zarch with the fire-power and gameplay of Desert Strike. If you liked either game, you’ll love Zeewolf. For the people who haven’t heard of either game, Zeewolf takes the “externally viewed craft flying over a rolling patchwork landscape” aspect of Zarch, and adds a well armed helicopter gunship with the ability to pick up friendly troops and vehicles. Thus you can either think of Zeewolf as Desert Strike in polygons, or Zarch with superior firepower. The background story to the game is pretty much irrelevant, like all good arcade game background stories. Basically you are given a helicopter gunship and asked to eradicate the enemy forces over a series of 32 missions, varying from the ridiculously easy to the disturbingly tough. The difficulty varies almost at random. Each mission consists of a wrap-around map of one or more islands, with a variable number of enemy land, air and sea forces. There will also be some friendly forces dotted around, although in most cases this simply means your resupply vehicle, which may take the form of an assault carrier or frigate, or may just be a little tracked vehicle based on land.

In some missions you have help from friendly forces, namely the Buffalo tank. These are usually placed on board your carrier, requiring you to airlift them one at a time to the islands, or are located inside armoured domes, usually surrounded by enemy forces. Once located/released the Buffalo roams around looking for targets until it either destroys all targets. In some missions they will ask you to provide air support for one or more friendly aircraft (either transport helicopters or scout aircraft). Since you are the only friendly armed aircraft, it is usually a good idea to clear the flight path of any enemy presence before escorting the aircraft to the carrier. Note that in a multi-objective mission, the objectives could in theory be worked on in any order, but certain missions require targets to be destroyed/friendlies rescued before a certain time limit runs out. In these cases you must use your judgement as to the order in which you attempt the overall mission. The Zeewolf can only carry a limited amount of ammunition and fuel, so requires regular resupply. To do this there is always one or more resupply points on the map. These are usually Camel class resupply vehicles, either located on the islands or on the forward deck of the assault carrier. In some missions the resupply is provided by a frigate, with a resupply point on the rear landing pad. The amount of ammunition/fuel carried by each resupply point is limited, so it is a good idea not to waste any stores. Your armour rating cannot be increased by resupply, only through the rescue of friendly troops. If the mission has no troops to rescue, then you’d better be careful with your armour. If you are killed, then all the stores carried are destroyed as well, although if you have any lives remaining, then you continue the mission with slightly reduced stores. It is a good idea, if you are low on armour, to off-load ammunition at a resupply point, as you will be able to pick it up again with your next life.

Control of the Zeewolf is carried out by either digital joystick or mouse, with some keyboard controls as well. For the beginner it may be easier to use the joystick, although I would recommend using the mouse from day one. Even though it makes controlling the Zeewolf a bit harder at first, you’ll be glad of the extra accuracy of mouse control once you are used to it. Also, when you’ve completed all 32 missions, you’ll really need to be good with the controls. After completing a set of four missions, you are rewarded with a password that allows you to start the game at the next mission. No progress data is stored on disk. Whilst the inclusion of passwords is welcomed, I would have preferred passwords for every level, not just every fourth level. Of course, there is always an exception to the rule, the exception being the password for the last four levels, which doesn’t actually exist. In other words, you have to battle through eight levels in order to reach the end of the game, rather than being able to start with only four to go. Still, like I say, the last four levels are really simple. The map screen deserves mention because whilst you look at the map, you can still play the game using the (approximately) quarter scale window provided on screen. Of course, since the game is now only drawing into a quarter of the area it draws into with the full screen dispay, the frame rate suddenly shoots up. On an accelerated machine, this increase can result in the game’s running just a bit too fast to be really controllable. Nevertheless, it is a nice touch, as you are never left flying blind whilst you consult the map. Zeewolf is a nice looking game with good playability and is worth the try or replaying this classic during these boring moments in life…

More news: Generation Amiga magazine