Hangsim is the brainchild of one man, Ilan Papini, a long time flyer and lover of light aviation (hand gliders and their ilk). Being a designer of simulations for the computer, he noticed his favorite type of aviation wasn't represented in the flight simulation market and set out to rectify the situation.
The retail version of Hangsim you can buy today on store shelves actually began as a shareware product. The folks over at Wilco Publishing, famous for their Microsoft Flight Simulator add-ons, were apparently impressed enough to pick up the rights to the title. What this means is more financial backing and marketing.
Now let's take a look at this simulation in detail.
Installation of Hangsim is rather painless. The game takes up about 200 paltry megabytes of hard drive space and, once installed, doesn't require the CD to run the game, a nice touch. When you first run the game, you'll be taken directly to the preferences menu. This menu allows you to configure everything about the game and since a 3D card is required, you set it up here. Once you're all set up, there are several modes of play available.
The first is free flight and is fairly self-explanatory. You first pick an aircraft, then an area in which to fly, and it's off to the wild blue yonder. This is a nice mode in which to get familiar with the controls and the crafts themselves. Speaking of controls, there are delightfully very few. Although some are rather odd (like cursor keys for throttle control) and they can't be changed, they're fairly easy to understand and master.
The next mode of play is called Challenges. This is composed of, well, you guessed it -- challenges. An example would be using a paraglider to land at your house, among others. Also included are several tutorial missions to help guide you through the finer controls of your craft. There are three sections to this mode: beginner, intermediate and experienced. These each have different missions and while some seem repetitive, they're usually a nice diversion from more hardcore sims.
A third mode is Competition in which you race against the AI pilots in the game. If you want to race against your friends, you're out of luck since this simulation has no multi-player options of any kind. While this might be a downer to many people (and rightly so), I'm assuming, like Papini's Virtual Sailor, that multi-player will be added at a late date. Unfortunately, the AI pilots are barely competent. I say "barely" because, while they can provide some competition, they can do silly things like crash into mountains. This tends to lessen the serious tension of these races somewhat but it's still fun at times.
The final mode is called Just for Fun. This mode has you piloting an armed (?!) ultra-lite or similar craft and usually shooting down other gliders. It's a bit silly and while one would hope that shot-up gliders would go down in flames, they simply fall and crash to the ground. This is merely a personal preference but, I say, if you're going to add violence to a non-violent game, why sugarcoat it?
The game includes seven craft: three hang gliders, two paragliders, one glider and an ultra-lite. This runs the gamut of light aviation and the flight models for these craft are fairly well done. The game models effects such as cloud suck and thermal layering which can greatly effect the performance of your craft.
Hangsim has some problems, however. The biggest of these is the damage model. If you crash into the ground, you don't break up or crash, you just go "thunk" and stop moving. This gets even worse over the water -- when you crash in the wet stuff, the game treats it as ground and "thunk" rather than "splash" is the result. The other problem is with terrain graphics. The game uses satellite imagery for its terrain and while it looks great at high altitudes, down low it gets rather muddy. This wouldn't be so bad in an F-22 sim where high flying is the norm but down low in a handglider it starts to look awful at times.
Overall, while this simulation has some problems, it's still fun for a five or ten minute flight when a break is needed for more hard-core simulations like MiG Alley. It's easy to use and can be a lot of fun, so sling up that hang glider and run off that cliff because Hangsim will get the wind rushing past your face.
Graphics: While the craft look great, the terrain can be quite muddy.
Sound: Very little sound besides the rushing of the wind.
Enjoyment: It makes for a very nice diversion.
Replay Value: The open-architecture of the game makes new missions and planes possible.
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