I've always looked down on Hard Drivin' as one of the least enjoyable racing games ever released. And let's face it, the game was no gem when it was released on the Atari Lynx, either. Arcade license notwithstanding, this first-person, stunt driving game was sandbagged with the most sluggish controls I've ever had the misfortune of experiencing. Upon its release, I really believed that the game was rendered unplayable by a super-slow frame rate. It just seemed like the screen couldn't keep up with the commands being issued by the control pad and buttons.
It took John Sanderson and NuFX Inc. to show me the error of my ways. Their Lynx conversion of Atari's Steel Talons coin-op uses the same type of polygon-filled scenery as Hard Drivin' did, but it corrects all of the game's problem areas beautifully. It's no small irony that NuFX was responsible for Hard Drivin' as well, but Sanderson seems to have learned a lot from his mistakes.
The screen updates in this helicopter battle simulator happens at almost exactly the same rate as Har Drivin', about three frames per second, but there's a world of difference in the control response. Steel Talons just seems to know where you want to steer your chopper, and the controls are as easy to learn as they are responsive.
This is the kind of game that you can really lose yourself in. Each successive mission presents a different type of challenge, with a change in location, time of day and weather conditions every time. You will hunt down planes, strafe the surface of woodlands, soar through mountains, blow up enemy fortifications real good and even maneuver your way through canyons that look an awful lot like the Death Star trench from Star Wars.
Though the complexity of this type of simulation tends to turn some gamers off, Steel Talons keeps things simple by presenting a lot of information in an extremely concise manner. The on-screen speed and altitude indicators are as unobtrusive as can be, yet they give you all the information you could possibly need in just a casual glance. This is a very classy game, one that took me completely by surprise.