Sub Battle Simulator
600 Galveston Drive
P.O. Box 8020
Redwood City, CA
$19.95, color only
Since they are best known for their arcade games, one would expect Epyx's Sub Battle Simulator to be graphics intensive. And, like all these games, it is. But what is surprising is that it also excels in nearly every aspect, which I find unusual for a company's first simulation.
After you choose the desired level of play and a mission (or target practice), the monitor fills with a display following the familiar pattern used in all these games. The left-hand side of the screen contains four dials that display your current speed, compass and viewing directions and depth, with a viewing window filling most of the rest of the monitor. A control panel resides along the bottom while pull-down menus contain even more options and commands. Unfortunately, the program falters slightly when it comes to control.
One problem is the fact that commands are spread all over the place, some on menus, some chosen with the mouse, others chosen through the keyboard. Some mouse control was specifically clumsy. For instance, to set direction, speed and depth, it is necessary to click on the gauge at the desired setting. This is intuitive and easy to learn. The problem is that it is also imprecise. It may take a number of tries to get to the desired depth of about 29 feet so that you can properly use the periscope. The impatient user will be best advised to utilize the optional keyboard commands. Another thoughtfully designed, informative and fully illustrated manual comes to the rescue here, succinctly indexing all the functions of the program.
In summary, each of these programs is worthwhile. Card-carrying commie haters will gravitate toward Red October, as will those who liked the book. I feel Sub Battle Simulator is the best bet for the beginner, even though it's flawed. Its low price more than compensated. Gato is good, but I think Silent Service is the best, due to its large command set and ability to grow with the player, thus providing the longest life. But regardless of your preference, no ST owner wanting to command a U-boat could possibly go wrong with any of these fine programs.
Steve Panak lives in Ohio, where he plays games on his ST and practices law.