Jetstrike is an arcade shoot-em-up which enables you to fly 39 different types of aircraft on over 100 individual missions against the dastardly SPUDD. You get to fly everything from attack helicopters to Stealth Fighters, and Spitfires to stunt planes, with just tow slight catches.
Firstly, they have been lent to you by sympathetic governments on the understanding you will look after them. Secondly, most of them have a complete lack of ejector seats or parachutes. Gulp!
Things do not get any easier when you see what you are expected to do. The action is viewed from a third-person perspective - no cockpit views here. This means you cannot see what you are flying towards most of the time and you must rely on extremely risky hedge-hopping techniques and a crappy radar system. Strangely, the plane handles them like a normal aircraft. You push the joystick up to dive, pull it back to climb when you expect it to be the other way around given the perspective. This means you make more than your fair share of mistakes, especially when it comes to sticking your kite on the Tarmac.
Once you have mastered the tricky control and got used to the weird viewpoint, Jetstrike actually proves quite rewarding. There is a lot of variety in the missions, from bombing runs, to complicated dogfights, carrier landings and personnel drops. The huge number of different aircraft also makes this game more fun to play - the helicopters are easier to fly, but are pretty useless in dogfights against SPUDD jet fighters, for example.
The graphics are nothing stunning, there is very little peripheral action on-screen, and the plane sprites are small and very sparsely detailed. It reminds me of the kiddie combat sequences in Ancient Art of War in the Skies rather than F-19, but it is great fun nevertheless. The sound effects are especially convincing with some tasty aircraft samples and ear-splitting explosions.
Jet Strike just reeks of nostalgia, and that old-time Speccy classic, Harrier Attack, in particular. From the weird 8-bit graphics to the long loading times, this is a game that miraculously catapults you way back almost ten years in video software history. Which may - or may not- be a good thing.
It seems to be aimed at people who like planes but cannot be bothered with flight sims. You get to fly a wide range of planes on an equally broad selection of missions, which you can pick from various training options or the main part of the game, a linked series of 100 combat operations. Missions can involve an element of air-to-air combat, a hint of ground attack activity, or, just as often, a little bit of both - with maybe a suggestion of spy-rescuing or reconnaissance-photo-taking thrown in for good measure.
Your plane is controlled using a method that, at first, is frankly baffling, but after a bit of practice (I'd suggest - ooh - a week or so) enables you to pull all manner of maneuvers without even thinking. On top of that, you also have to contend with the arbitrary scoring, the crap puns, the slow screen-swapping and the deeply unnerving way that huge mountains and tower-blocks suddenly scroll onto the screen and swat you from the sky like an pathetic insect. I am tempted to lump these together as 'amusing idiosyncrasies' than crippling bugs - after all, they just add to the whole nostalgia package.
But, - and this is a big 'but' - even though I am seriously into old-fashioned Spectrum-style romps, I still have a problem with Jet Strike. I really like the idea. I love the deep-down feel-good sensation when you successfully carpet-bomb an unarmed convoy with a runway denial device. And I even derive some form of perverse satisfaction from the utterly unforgiving controls. But the one thing I CANNOT STAND is the delays. Every time you crash your plane (and believe me, you will be doing this a lot), you have to press fire and WAIT WAIT WAIT while the disk drive whirrs and clicks and eventually puts you back on the runway again. What is that? You have accidentally selected the wrong option form the main menu? Well, TOUGH - it is probably faster to re-boot than to try and get back to where you started.
It is a tribute to Jet Strike's appeal that I have kept going back to it despite this frankly hideous flaw (to be fair, you can install it on a hard disk, which does help matters somewhat). I cannot recommend the game unreservedly, simply because I know it will drive some people completely spare. I can imagine it having some sort of weir cult appeal, however - the sheer level of frustration means that you are not going to finish it in a hurry.
More a flight game than a flight sim, Jetstrike takes an unusual side-on scrolling view to depict the action. It sets the player up as an ace fighter pilot working for an elite task force whose aim is to rid the world of S.P.U.D.D. (The Society of Particularly Undesirable Dastardly Dudes). S.P.U.D.D. wants world domination and you are the only one standing in their way. So, the plan is that you carry out a series of strike missions against S.P.U.D.D. bases.
You have a selection of aircraft at your disposal ranging from small Wessex helicopters to super fast SU-27 Flankers. The missions vary from rescuing spies to blowing up radar stations - all in the name of peace.
Jetstrike is a funny old game. The control system is quirky in the extreme. For instance, when you are flying right to left you climb by pulling down, but traveling left to right the controls are reversed. So, in the middle of a dogfight you can find yourself heading for the ground at an enormous rate simply by rotating too far. Very confusing.
Jetstrike is actually quite fun to play. If you grab a mate and try the Aerolympics option (i.e. you take turns to fly through a devious course of balloon gates, etc.) you will find yourself soon dragged into the action.
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