Review: Lost Patrol, A blend of tactics & arcade action
It’s June 7th 1966: a US helicopter returning troops from a period of rest and recreation in Saigon goes all wobbly and crashes in the remote Central Highlands of Vietnam. There are seven survivors, and the nearest US base, Du Hoc, is 57 miles away. 57 miles of unbelievably harsh terrain. 57 miles alive with booby traps and Vietcong troops. A fully equipped team of soldiers would find the prospect of a trek of this sort of daunting (to say the very least) but the seven men who will be under your control have little food or ammunition. Oh, and morale is low, obviously. Your chances of survival are extremely slim. In fact it’s worse than that: you’re as good as dead. Here’s where you stand… As Sergeant Weaver your job is to lead the other six survivors in a trek across 57 miles of jungle and swampland to the nearest US base. Booby traps, Viet Cong troops and snipers will ensure it is an interesting trip. The main screen is a map where you can select which direction to march in. Hills and rivers slow progress down, but following well-trodden trails make you a sitting target for the VC. You can also decide the pace of your match, how fast you consume rations and how often you rest, as well as how long you sleep at night. Periodically static screens come up showing what is happening and occasionally there is a short digitised sequence. Your trek is also interrupted by numerous arcade sequences. One of your scouts might run into a VC soldier, resulting in a simplistic hand-to-hand combat scene. You might also come under Sniper Attack. Here the screen shows a static picture of a village, as shots ring out tiny muzzle flashes can be spotted through your telescopic rifle sight. A sharp eye is also required for the Battle Sequence, which has you pinned inside a ruined farmhouse. As you hide behind a wall VC stand up to take aim: pressing the right button has you standing up to fire back or throw grenades. Somewhat familiar is the Grenade Section with a VC sniper hiding in a field of wheat. Pressing fire pulls the grenade pin out, leaving you a few seconds to select the strength of your throw. The overhead-view Minefield Section has one man crawling ahead of the rest, using a bayonet to uncover mines. There are also confrontations with villagers who can offer vital food supplies if questioned correctly. But for that unqiue My Lai touch, there is an option to massacre entire villages. The heart of the game is strategic: picking your route, pace, rations and rest periods is critical to making significant progress. Lost Patrol is surprisingly easy to get into. The game is well presented with easy-to-use menus and atmospheric pictures.