Ask the Game Geek, Part 2Dec 21, 2004 · peterb · 3 minute read
Here’s another game that I vividly remember playing, but could not recall the name of. A little research has helped me figure it out, however. (Yes, I’ve updated this article since last night, when I still didn’t know the name and was bemoaning my fate).
It was an Apple ][ game. My memory of it was as follows: The game was played on a map of Europe, with the Soviet Union on the east and West Germany and environs on the west. Soviet fighters and bombers would appear on the map, identified by little call signs (“Tu-26” “Mi-25” “Su-11”). The planes would begin flying towards their western targets. In response to this, the player’s job was to select an appropriate airbase and dispatch a fighter plane from that base to intercept a given Soviet plane. It was similar in some ways to NORAD, a very clever missile command clone, which involved intercepting missiles rather than planes. But in my memory, all you were doing was choosing which planes intercepted the Soviet planes, on a sector-by-sector basis. You didn’t actually steer them, whereas in NORAD there was an actual dexterity requirement. This mystery game was, essentially, a simple air traffic controller game.
I liked it.
Some lucky searches showed me that this game was called AWACS, and it’s a little more complex than what I describe above. The ways in which my memory diverged from the truth are interesting.
AWACS is Missile Command in concept, but a bit more interesting in implementation. Specifically, you should move your AWACS plane close enough to the radar contacts so that you can identify them; some of the radar contacts are friendly, and shooting them down is frowned upon. You don’t actually “steer your plane” around as much as you move a “window” of viewing area over a map of Western Europe. When planes are nearly centered, their blueprint shows up at the bottom of your screen. Rather than launching fighters to intercept, as I remembered, you just hit “enter,” and the closest base launches a missile at the nearest contact. If the plane reaches a base, the base is destroyed (I lost Prague within the opening seconds of a game I played this morning. It’s quite challenging.) The reason I remembered launching fighter planes is that after a while, your own bases start launching planes on their own, and you need to identify them so that you don’t accidentally shoot them down.
You can obtain the disk image for AWACS here, but the fastloader is
incompatible with the operating system on the disk image; boot your emulator
with a dos 3.3 image and then load the game disk into a second drive
and run it there (try