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Warbirds Reviewed by John Huxley on . Rating: 92%
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Isn't it about time for a handheld flight simulator? No, I'm not kidding. While flying games have primarily been contained on the home computer and (to a much lesser extent) the consoles, Warbirds on the Lynx is a World War I dogfighting game/flight simulator.

Unlike the previous air combat entry into the Lynx world, Blue Lightning, Warbirds is a real in-the-cockpit game, with realistic action and controls. You can climb, dive, loop and scream through the clouds and, naturally, blast enemy planes out of the sky. He game is a marvel of handheld gaming, using the Lynx's graphics abilities to their fullest.

The landscape is typical flight-simulator terrain, a huge plain dotted with pyramid shaped mountains - which you can't crash into, darn it! - all composed of polygons. While this kind of effect is hardly revolutionary in an age of PSP and Nintendo DS games, the idea of computing these kinds of polygons on a handheld was unheard of 16 years ago. To keep everything running smoothly, Warbirds takes a different approach from most flight sims of that generation. Instead of drawing everything on the fly, Warbirds uses pre-drawn images of aircraft and clouds and rotates and scales them. This means the Lynx isn't devoting all of its time to drawing 3D objects and thus produces a smoothly animated and fast-moving game.

You play the part of a pilot, flying a state-of-the-art (once) biplane. No missiles, 20mm cannon or stealth technology here. Your plane is made of wood, metal, cloth and wire and armed only with a pair of machine guns. Your mission is to shoot down all hostile planes in the sky without getting shot down or crashing into the ground yourself. You start off in the air and must locate enemies and engage them in "dogfights."

The controls are simple: Pushing forward (up) on the D-pad causes your plane to dive, and pulling back (down) causes your plane to climb. Left and right turns are just as you'd expect, and pressing "A" fires your machine guns. Holding down the "B" button shows you a view looking back "over your shoulder" at what's behind your plane, and pressing the pad while holding "B" down lets you look in other directions - left, right, up, and even down into your cockpit so you can check your oil pressure and ammunition reserve.

Dogfights involve trying to get behind an enemy aircraft and lay bullets into it until it goes down in flames. Like a real biplane, your Warbird fighter is no piece of cake to control. Turn hard to find a target, and you'll find it difficult to reverse direction too fast. If you're climbing too steeply, you'll eventually "unwind" your engine and find yourself unable to maintain speed. Gaining too quickly on an evasive enemy? Simply stall your engine to lose speed.

This is one of those games that you'll either love or hate. Even in its "arcade" mode it's fairly realistic. Real aerial maneuvers world surprisingly well. You can use clouds to lose and confuse pursuing enemies, pull vertical reverses to quickly get behind an opponent that has just passed you head-on, dive to build up speed and climb to lose it. In the simulator mode, turning to the right is easier than going to the left, just as in a real biplane (because of the way the propeller spins, such planes naturally "pull" to the right). It's fun to pull a complex maneuver and find yourself emerging from the clouds, upside-down, with the sky below and the Earth above.

Loaded with features, Warbirds lets you select the realism of the mission, the amount of ammunition your plane carries, how much damage you can take and whether or not to allow midair collisions. There are a number of different missions, ranging from pathetically easy Milk Run to the very challenging. If you run out of ammo, you can find your home "barn" and land for rearming, but be careful - too much airspeed and/or too steep an approach and it's game over for you (and your pilot).

As if this wasn't enough, the final layer of icing on the Warbirds cake is that it's ComLynx ready, and up to four players can get in on the action. The game graphics, while simple, are outstanding, and when you top all this off with some neat digitized pictures at the end of each mission, you have one really amazing game. It's not for everybody, but if you're a Lynx owner who loves flight simulators you owe it to yourself to check out this phenomenal action game.
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