In World War 2, the Bismarck battleship has been dominant thus far. Armed with torpedoes and a machine gun, can you destroy the Bismarck with a well-aimed torpedo and turn the tide of WW2 in the Allies' favour? Find out is this flight simulation and strategy game.
How you complete the task is largely up to you. You will need to deal with the plane's instruments, to take off, and plan which areas of the sky you patrol in the search for the Bismarck. There are four distinct instrument panels to control engineer, navigator and gunner functions as well as the main flight controls. Statistics on how much of each enemy's fleet you destroy are kept.
The story The story of this game is part fantasy and part history. Your main goal is to destroy the German warship the 'Bismarck'. The Bismarck had sunk a British ship named 'HMS Hood' and so, the British want revenge. They send the aircraft carrier 'Ark Royal' which is your base of operations. You pilot 'The Avenger' a special fighter equipped to do torpedo bombing. While the Bismarck really did exist and did sink the HMS Hood, the Avenger did not take part in destroying of the Bismarck.
Gameplay The game offers you to either practice various things such as landing, takeoff and flying, its main purposes is to have you fly to the Bismarck and sink it. The airplane consists of four screens. The first is the pilot's screen, where you control the plane. The second is the Engineer's screen where you can keep an eye on the airplane's status and take care of takeoff and landing. The Navigator's screen lets you track your position as well that of the enemies and you can see where various points of interest might be. On this screen you can also set a point to navigate to, and it will appear on the compass on the Pilot's screen. The last screen is the Tail gunner's screen; here you can obviously shoot at things that you might've missed while you're at the Pilot's screen.
Controls Here's the game's big question mark. While most of the controls are as the manual says, some are a mystery that even I have not figured out. The main problem being the engineer's light switch. In order to see and operate your instruments you need to turn that light on. This is essential if you need to take off or land. Also, during flight, you need to use it to check up on your plane. Be sure to turn the light off, the manual says, before you leave the Engineer's screen because keeping it on will make you easy to spot by the enemy.
That aside, the controls are your standard-run-of-the-mill kind of thing, arrows control the plane and space switches between fire mode and pilot mode. On the tail gunner screen the spacebar fires.
It's a little obvious this game needs a joystick as the keyboard is not enough! You'd be better off playing the Atari ST version.
Graphics and Audio There are three video modes the game offers, being CGA, EGA and Tandy 1000. The only sound the game makes is using the PC Speaker and it only offers rudimentary sounds consisting of beeps. The engine sound is quite horrible before takeoff.
Dive bomber runs fine under Dosbox and natively under XP. In Dosbox be sure to clock it back a little until the beeps are clear instead of broken up.
Dive Bomber is one of the least known World War 2 simulations ever made, even though it was marketed by (then) UK giant US Golf and ported quite competently by Epyx to the US. Perhaps one reason for the game's relative anonymity is the heavy arcade feel that disappoints die-hard armchair pilots, while lacking nonstop, physics-free action to please joystick experts. Maury Markowitz has all the scoop in his excellent review for MobyGames:
"The game is an interesting idea, a single mission flight simulator where you fly an Avenger off the Ark Royal (Royal Navy) in order to hunt down the Bismarck. The Bismarck is "out there somewhere" and you have to find her, while at the same time protecting the Ark Royal from both submarines and minefields. Loose the Ark Royal and it's over.
Some parts of the game are a lot of fun. The plane pretty much flew itself (no real physics, somewhat arcadish in that you could only roll so much and fly so high etc.) so you spent the majority of the game in the map finding targets, and then flying over them while in the gunner positions. For instance the Ark Royal started off headed right into a mine field, so you aim for that, jump into the lower gun position, and fire away. Lots of fun! Getting the U-boats was similar, but very hard to do, you typically flew past before getting enough rounds into them.
Countering you were guns on the subs, represented by flashes which I suppose were supposed to be the AA. I never found them to be a big issue though, and the flashes made it easy to find the boats. More dangerous though were the Me-110 night fighters which travelled in packs. Although you could (unrealistically) take out a pack or two in the upper gun, get caught too much and down you go.
Fuel and ammo needed to be watched, and when you got low you flew into the area of the Ark and hit "I" to tell her to turn on the lights. It also lined up with you every time (for developer ease I believe), making this task pretty easy as long as you remember to lower the hook and wheels.
When you do finally find the Bismarck you get one shot with your torpedo to sink her, no second try.
The bad: one try to sink the Bismarck! The game just ends at that point, you miss or you hit, all done. Also the history is astoundingly bad. The manual goes to great lengths to explain that the Avenger never flew with the RN and this is just a game after all, but in reality Avengers really did fly with the RN! Then consider that the Avenger was a torpedo bomber, not a dive bomber. Pick up a book!
As a hard-core simmer I found the flight portion of the game to be pretty distracting, but as an action game this isn't an issue.
The bottom line: [Dive Bomber is an] interesting idea and the graphics were definitely well done for the time, but once you get the Bismarck once or twice the game pretty much has no replay value."
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