600 Balveston Drive
Redwood City, CA 94063
Reviewed by Steve Panak
I'm really not sure how to start in on this one, so I'll come right to the point. Final Assault is a simulation that attempts to recreate the thrills, spills and chills of mountain climbing. Technically, it succeeds on nearly every level. However, subjectively, I did not care much for it, feeling, as I do toward most simulations of this type (i.e., a fishing simulation I played about a year ago): that such an activity does not lend itself to computerization. Put simply, although technically brilliant, something is lost in the translation.
This said, those still interested will be pleased to hear that Final Assault does a great job. As would be done in preparation for a real climb, your first task is to assemble in your backpack items you feel will be of use. The items selected will depend on the time of day and length of your climb, as well as the season and characteristics of the summit. The weight of each item is taken into account, so don't overload yourself. For instance, a long climb would require food, perhaps a tent for shelter. Icy climbs require crampons (boot spikes) while rock climbing might be easier with soft shoes.
There are a number of trails available on three mountain ranges, enough to keep most climbers busy until they are quite tired of the program. Although the manual included a short section on the Alps, one of the most famous mountain ranges in the world, I was disappointed to discover that the actual mountains you climb seem to have no basis in reality. However, each is rated as to difficulty and estimated time for completion. After choosing your trail and loading up with gear, you head for the hills.
Play is divided into two main classifications: walking and climbing. Climbing is further divided into scaling ice and rock, each of which requires different techniques. The use of a rope might also be necessary on some of the more difficult ridges. On a typical trail, it might be necessary to first hike to the base of the mountain—testing the ground with your ice pick, jumping over crevices as they appear—until you reach an ice cliff. You'll then select the proper gear and start your climb. This scaling works much the way the old Crazy Climber arcade game worked, because you use the joystick or keyboard to place and move your feet and hands. And if you're not careful, don't fret: A beginner gets up to three lives. An expert should know better. Rounding out the program is a save-game feature that allows you to rest in the middle of lengthy climbs, and a log to allow you to record your achievements.
The manual is surprisingly complete and concise; the program remarkably easy to learn. While I usually find that the translation of simple human motions, such as walking or climbing, on the computer requires a frustrating and awkward set of unnatural commands that make learning and playing the game a chore, Final Assault escapes this trap. While it is difficult to learn, I was amazed to find that once the motions were mastered, they became almost instinctive, with the result that you improved in skill until you were confident on even the toughest summits. And when combined with the informative manual, the package teaches the neophyte just about everything he would want to know about mountain climbing, which is a fair and objective measure of the program's success.
The bottom line: For simulation fans.
Steve Panak has written more game reviews for ST-LOG and ANALOG than anyone on the face of the earth. He lives in Ohio where he plays games on his ST and practices law.