It's no wonder flight simulations are among the most popular of all computer games. There's something irresistible about flying. For most of us, though, a home computer is as close we'll get to the real thing.
Gee Bee Air Rally drops you into a 1930's barnstorming stunt plane-the Gee Bee. With stubby wings, powerful engine, and huge fuel tanks, the Gee Bee was built for speed. In Gee Bee Air Rally, you don't fly from one airport to another, you race several other Gee Bees for fame and glory.
In format, Gee Bee Air Rally is similar to Pole Position, the archetypical arcade racing game. Just as in that game, you dodge your opponents as you pass them. But Gee Bee improves on the racing game form by adding a new physical dimension-not only can you pass your opponents on the left or the right, but you also can pass from above or below.
The game offers three levels of play, each divided into separate events. Normally, you try to fly between the markers that delineate the course. At the end of each level, however, are Special Events in which you pop balloons or slalom around markers.
All planes (yours and those of your competitors) bank realistically around turns. As a matter of fact, the game is so realistic that you'll feel like you're on a roller coaster. When you dive, you speed up; when you climb, you slow down.
Gee Bee's joystick controls are easy to learn and master. Control of the plane is responsive and accurate. People who normally dislike computer games might have fun playing this one, while arcade pros will be satisfied with the maneuvering subtleties needed to play the game at the highest level.
There are three levels of difficulty, but the two highest levels are too easy. After just a few games, I was able to play well past my boredom threshold (currently about 45 minutes). I'd like to see a second level like the current third level, and a third level that's significantly more difficult.
Sound is an important element in this game. In fact, the only obvious way to hear whether you're in low gear or high gear is to listen to the engine.
On some computers, Gee Bee's sound is even more impressive. If you haven't yet hooked your Amiga to your stereo, you'll want to hook it up for Gee Bee Air Rally. Every sound effect is available in stereo. When a plane roars by on your right, you'll hear the sound from the right speaker. Not only does this make the game more fun, it actually makes it play better-you can hear from which side a plane is approaching before you see it. Gee Bee Air Rally also has perhaps the best theme music of any game yet developed for the Amiga-another reason to connect your computer to a stereo.
Although not as spectacular as the sound, the graphics are also wonderful. The planes, mountains, and scenery are nicely drawn. Each airplane casts a shadow on the ground. The farther away a plane is, the smaller it is. In short, this game has all the visual cues needed to make it seem real.
There are also, however, graphics that are annoyingly intrusive. For instance, every time you crash and bail out of your plane, you're punished by a screen showing where you landed. While these scenes are nicely drawn, they tend to get tedious. Even worse, these screens aren't in memory, they're on disk. I'd like the option of switching these screens off.
Compounding the problem is the Amiga Gee Bee's copy-protection (which makes a particularly frightening grinding sound). This protection keeps you from copying the program onto a hard drive or the ramdisk. If you have expansion memory and a disk cache program like Facc II, you can set aside enough buffers so that each scene only has to load once.
While the sound, music, and graphics are truly impressive, those qualities don't make a game, they only enhance it. For any game, the game play is what keeps you away or keeps you coming back.
Gee Bee Air Rally is worthy of repeated play.
- Rhett Anderson
Bee Air Rally
2350 Bayshore Frontage Rd.
Mountain View, CA 94043