Format reviewed: Amiga CD32
Developer: Shadow Software
Submitted by: Damian Butt
Imagine a compelling hybrid of Harrier Attack, Choplifter and UN Squadron, add in a splash of rye humour, fanatical attention to detail, and sublimely playable 2-D side-scrolling game engine and you have Aaron Fothergill’s Jetstrike.
Today Jetstrike is a hidden retro gaming gem; largely overlooked when it was released in 1994, first for the Amiga, then ported to the ill-fated CD-32 console. Its fanbase is a bit like the last surviving members of the dam-busters – rarely seen but fiercely loyal. The joy of Jetstrike is in its simple air combat gameplay mixed with a dizzying array of real-life weapons, aircraft and over 150 missions. Fothergill clearly had a blast researching and recreating tiny versions of planes like the MiG 29, Tornado, F-15, Apache helicopter Sea Harrier and F117 stealth fighter, coupled with hundreds of realistic scenery-smashing bombs and missiles.
Players choose their steed, equip it with armaments and then take off from an allied base; skirting radar and hugging the jagged terrain of a constantly 2-D scrolling landscape to the target. Avoid the enemy defences (in this case, the sinister SPUDD forces) and then drop your load before limping back to base for a debrief. Sounds simple, but you’ve got to learn to deploy your weapons properly whilst the sky is black with flak, and of course there’s the Amiga’s jerky handling of the screen update to contend with, not forgetting eccentric controls which reverse when you turn around.
The basic VGA graphics convey the action perfectly and allow the finely-tuned gameplay to rule the show. Planes loaded with too much ordinance are noticeably sluggish; affecting your ability to avoid anti-aircraft fire and SAMs, and everything works – the swing wings, Gatling guns, undercarriage and even afterburners. Hell, you even get little fire trucks spraying the wreckage with foam if you ‘come in too hot.’
Fans of Jetstrike eulogise over the many game modes – the two-player ‘Aerolympics’ where you get to fly stunt missions for points, the chance to dogfight with any era of opposing fighter (Spitfire versus F-18 anyone?), and the exceptional music, including 14 full length Top Gun-esque songs. If you want to sample its delights today you’re best off tapping eBay for an actual CD-32, because no emulator has ever done it justice.