Everyone and their dog has played Desert Strike, and rightly so. The isometric tactical combat game was an innovative combination of genres tied together by savvy mission design. And it let you blow up everything in sight. Needless to say, the game was a smash success and helped put EA on the map in a big way. A sequel was obvious. And in the gaming world of that era, a sequel to a blockbuster hit usually meant a ton of hype with very little substance actually delivered to the faithful. Jungle Strike broke the mold in both ways, resulting in an incredible follow-up that got an unfairly subdued launch. EA should have broken out the red carpet, but they didn’t. We were the ones who lost out. So what’s so great about it? The fact that it’s Desert Strike 2. Instead of taking the franchise in a new direction, Mike Posehn and company stuck with what made the original so awesome. They adhered to the formula, merely adding on some well thought out extras. Namely better graphics graphics, more options, enemies, interactive environments, smoother control, and stuff to do in general. Oh, yeah, and you get to fly more than just a helicopter. You read that right. In Jungle Strike you get to switch off to multiple different vehicles in order to better dispense wrath upon your prey. If you’ve ever played a Strike game, though, you know that reckless abuse of firepower will get you nowhere except six feet under. This isn’t one of those games where you can shoot anything and everything without penalty. The missions in Jungle Strike are more complicated than the tired “blow up the alien mainframe” scenarios. Granted, some are nothing more than assaults on enemy compounds, but the majority involve picking up some person or thing while taking out hostile forces and avoiding excess collateral damage. That’s a gross simplification, of course; Jungle Strike, much like its predecessor, almost never pulls the same trick twice. Variety is the name of the game and all the different combinations of gameplay elements will really keep you on your toes. Desert Strike‘s plot was a purposefully transparent rehash of Operation Desert Storm, albeit with a decidedly cheeky spin. Although Saddam was never mentioned outright, it was pretty obvious who the Desert Madman was. Jungle Strike brings back the same generic Madman for round two, although this time with a gaggle of terrorist goons tagging along for the ride, making the game surprisingly relevant with their suicide trucks and hijacked tour buses… and tanks, missile launchers, jeeps, sentry towers, and all sorts of high-tech weaponry. Adrenaline will surge, tension will mount, your heart rate will rise, and you might just jump to your feet. Fuel, armor, and ammo will melt away in the face of withering fire from all sides; sweat will trickle down the side of your face as you jink and weave. Then comes that moment of awful finality when your chopper’s alarms begin to sound, even as your fingers are brushing victory. A heart-rending exchange of deadly gunfire follows, and then the glorious explosions indicating triumph. You leap for joy, sing a song, and dance around! End of first mission! No one can say that Jungle Strike is boring. It’s a thrilling ride from beginning to end, and you’ll want to see it through. End of story. So go out, buy the game for what little it commands, and cancel all your plans for next Saturday. Then sit back, take a deep breath, and push that start button. War is hell. But this game is heaven.