Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 4 NO. 3 / OCTOBER 1989

For The
Fun Of It

High-Tech Jets
and Ditzy Dinosaurs

In the April 1989 issue of START, veteran Marine Corps pilot Wolf Griffey took a fascinating and experienced look at Spectrum HoloByte's famous F-16 flight simulator. This issue, he checks out a new F-16 simulator from Britain to see how it stacks up. But if you think all this military talk is too grim, we've included a review of Taito's Bubble Bobble by START's own Marta Deike.

With a new arsenal and advanced design, Digital
Integration's F-16 Combat Pilot compares favorably
to Spectrum HoloByte's famous let-fighter simulation.

Talto's Bubble Bobble sheds new light on why the
dinosaurs became extinct -they blew too many bubbles!

Reviewed by Wolf Griffey

I was transferred! I'm flying the best simulation in the Falcon stable (Spectrum HoloByte's) and my commanding officer tells me to pack my bags and report to the Wildcatters, a new squadron working out of Digital Integration's F-16 Combat Pilot jet-fighter simulation. This meant, of course, going through that horror of horrors all pilots dread: REFAM (Refamilarization). I would have to learn the new machine from the ground up and prove myself all over again. All right Digital, let's see how you stack up.

Reporting Aboard
Entering the F-16 Combat Pilot's ready room, I could either begin a Quickstart program or study the manual, followed by a few training hops. I chose the latter The Wildcatters are flying the Falcon C version with an MSIP avionics update from the AFTI technology demonstrator program - too many new things to find out about in the middle of a fight.

Don't get me wrong, the Quickstart option is a good way to go if your idea of fun is to learn by impacting the ground and then trying again. I just like to know a few basic things when I'm up-little things such as airspeeds, weapons delivery tactics and systems selection. They get mentioned in Quickstart, but a little training still wouldn't do me any harm.

New and Different; Old and Familiar
The front office of Digital's F-16C has been improved by making it a "glass cockpit," as opposed to my older ride, where the only CRT was the radar/map console. Most of the dials, single displays and panels have been replaced with three CRTs called Multi-Function Digital (MFD) displays. Before, the best I could do was to switch modes on the center console between the air-to-air or air-to-ground display. Now I could put up three displays at once and cross-check like crazy. A nice touch in this F-16C was a data link device, the Up Front Control Panel (UFCP), centered and above the MFD's.

The MFD displays could be used to call items like air or ground radars, primary flight data, weapons status, moving map, ILS, a new digital artificial horizon (I'm traditional and didn't like it too much), plus a new screen for the Lantim (thermal image) acquisition system. The Lantim allows increased targeting for some of the weapons and gives the pilot night attack abilities.

Both air and ground radar displays had track and scanning modes. The basic radar, the AN/APG-68V, also has an air-combat-scan. When the pilot selects dogfight, a preset group of displays are present and the radar shows only the target of "greatest threat," it does an auto-lockup and readies the weapons system for quick firing when in range. The same type of auto-lockup is present in the ground-track-radar.

New Toys
All of these new gadgets had to have something to go with them, so I turned to the weapons section. There were the standard iron bombs, a Mk83 1,000-pounder, a Mk84 2,000-pounder and the Mk82 Snakeye. The Durandal (runway buster) was available and, of course, the AIM9M and M61a1 Vulcan cannon. Having these weapons made me happy because I knew them, but it was the new items that really warmed my heart.

The AMG-65 was now in two different upgraded forms. First there was the D version, Imaging Infrared (IIR). Used with the Lantim, a "hot" target could now be hit from 10 miles away versus a visual targeting at three miles. The E version has laser guidance. If ground troops can scan the target, the Lantim will let this fly off at 11 miles or you can use the ground-target-track mode on the radar and do the same. Safety is distance from target.

Best of all, the Wildcatters had gotten the new AMRAAM AIM-120A. Shoot and forget, with a max range of over 30 nautical miles-love at first sight for a fighter jock.

Flying The Beast
Engine startup came about only after I could identify myself to the Wildcatters. (This simulation uses off-disk copy protection-you type in a word from the manual.) The systems checks were completed, cleared with tower for takeoff, moved onto the active runway, pushed for 100 percent and then afterburner. The run was smooth and the climb-out a breeze. 1 soon found out that this bird handles like the Falcon I knew in the upper ranks in Spectrum HoloByte's bird. Airspeed increased and decreased according to throttle position and attitude. The ship was steadier in turns and system call-ups seemed easier to handle and gleaning info from the displays was easy and straightforward.

It was the new items in F-16 Combat Pilot
that really warmed my heart.

The rest of the cockpit was about the same as to warning lights and controls. The Heads-Up Display (HUD), pretty much a standard item now, was not too different. It was when I noticed that the repeat compass had been moved to the right-side panel that I started thinking about what else had been moved.

The trim control was missing and my old friend the snake was not on my HUD when I went to guns. These I could get used to in time. I discovered that my CCIP was now a set-the-box-on-the-target-and-squeeze type of operation, not the continue-to-target type I had seen before. During the runs to test the weapons there was a definite need to modify the tried and true and get with the program.

My back seat woke up long enough to show me how to get this beast down on the ground, then let me try as long as I wished. I say beast, because I now knew why I missed the trim control. Keeping airspeed and direction on line, even with the ILS or GCA assist was -and continued to be - somewhat painful.

End Game
After a few missions and some time to think, I paid my old CO a call and told him what I thought the differences were between Digital Integration's F-16 and Spectrum HoloByte's version. The op-area is larger in Digital's, but it looks a little bleaker and the airfields seem to be a little small for operating from. And there are more missions and three types of MIGs (27-Flogger/J, 29-Fulcrum, 31-Foxhound) to shoot at and be shot at by.

Two final things come to mind. First, Digital's F-16 is a squirrely ship on landing. Second, someone needs to tell those people in the tower (Digital) that security is good, but if I'm already in the log I don't need to identify myself everytime I go up in one day.

If it came down to a choice between flying Spectrum HoloByte's F-16 simulator or Digital's F-16 Combat Pilot, I would go with whichever was closest and then get some temporary duty with the other unit on a 50/50 basis.

Reviewed by Maria Deike

If you thought dinosaurs were extinct, think again. Taito brings them back as Bub and Bob, in the new arcade translation, Bubble Bobble. As Bub or Bob, you move through a series of mazes or "caves," foraging for food fortified with points. When your enemies attack, you blow bubbles at them.

No Bubble Gum
The concept of Bubble Bobble is simple: pudgy baby dinosaurs blow bubbles at beasties. But gameplay is not easy. Each maze contains a number of nasty monsters such as ghosts, killer whales and "Stoners" - hooded figures who hurl large indestructible boulders. There are 10 different types of monsters and the higher the level, the nastier the monster. I've only survived to the thirteenth level, but according to the manual, there are 100.

Did dinosaurs really
like bananas better
than pears?

In order to progress to the next level, you must clear the screen of the monsters. They can be encapsulated in your bubble, but then you must turn around and pop it-quickly. If you don't, the monsters break free and, as you may have guessed, they're not at all happy with you. If you break the bubble in time, your enemies transform into valuable fruit which you collect for points. I hadn't known that dinosaurs were fond of bananas, but evidently they were a favored food (second only to peaches, if you're faced with the choice).

In addition to fruit, other treasures appear intermittently. Some merely boost your score. Others affect your power, such as the "Ring of Fire," which puts a deadly flame into your prehistoric breath. The instructions for Bubble Booble are sparse, so you'll have to discover the properties of the different items, as well as the M.O. of your enemies, by trial and error. But then, such surprises are half the fun.

Bubble Rap
Scoring in Bubble Bobble is not entirely clear. You start out with four lives and eight credits, each worth four more lives. The credits seem to be awarded sporadically. For instance, if you die four times in one maze, the game ends-sometimes. If you're starting in a new maze with only one life left and you lose it, you'll be credited with four more-sometimes.

It's surprisingly easy to get knocked out in Bubble Bobble. Just brushing against a beast will stun you, leaving you momentarily helpless and vulnerable to further attack. While you're reeling in unconsciousness, however, firing the joystick button seems to call a credit into action, although why this happens remains a mystery. Perhaps it has something to do with being resuscitated by your own bubble.

The graphics are festive; they're colorful and cute and the objects that give you points are well represented. The sound effects, however, could use a lot of improvement. All you get for consuming the vital fruit is a weak little bleep. And there's no extra sound at all when you're bonked. One final roar or even a bleep would make a difference.

The prevailing sound in the game is the Bubble Bobble theme. This penny-arcade score is the most delightfully bright and cheerful music ever. For the first five rounds of this, my head was so busy dancing back and forth that I almost couldn't care less about the fearsome beasties. But it gets monotonous, fast. It runs on independently of gameplay and without much variation. By the sixth round, I had to turn the volume off; with it went the few sound effects and some of the magic, too.

You'll hear the
Bubble Bobble theme
in your dreams.

Kids, Try this at Home
While Bubble Bobble has its flaws, they're minor and don't diminish the overall playability. The game is fun. It's not a hot-wired racing simulation, nor is it a mind-bending text adventure-it's a good example of what Taito does best: entertaining arcade action. A hundred levels should be enough to keep the challenge going for some time.

Wolf Griffey is a former Marine Corps fighter pilot and is now a product manager for Antic Software. Marta Deike is the Editorial Coordinator for START Magazine.


F-16 Combat Pilot, $35. Digital Integration Limited, distributed by Sideline Software, 981 West Commercial Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33309, (800) 888-9273.

Bubble Bobble, $29.95. Taito Software, 267 West Esplanade, North Vancouver, BC, V7M 1A5, (604) 984-3344.