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The problem with most flying simulators is that they're difficult to fly. It's easy to take off but when the time comes to land it's always disheartening to see your plane pancake time after time. However,
Solo Flight Plus offers a truly superb trainer with loads of reassuring speech and messages which in a short period of time gets you through any problems that may be encountered while flying. Once you've mastered flying, the program has a mail run option which lets you fly over several US States and deliver mail to the different aerodromes there. You can also bring in emergencies, fly at night or in adverse weather conditions if you want to add a little excitement to your flying. The graphics, although slow and somewhat flickery, work quite well and are well above the standards usually associated with simulators. If you feel that there is a frustrated pilot within yourself just dying to fly then take a good look at this program, it's one of the best simulators around.

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Welcome to Game of the Week! Each week there will be a new featured game on this page. The game may be good, average or diabolically bad, it really doesn't matter! Just look at the pics, read the text and enjoy the nostalgia! :-) Game of the Week! is open to contributions so if you would like to contribute a game article for this page you're more than welcome to! Every article we receive will be considered!
Solo Flight - 2nd Edition
1985 Microprose Software
Programmed by John F. Kutcher & Grant Irani
 
Most text of the present article comes from the review published in the fifteenth issue of the British C64 magazine ZZAP!64 (street date: June 12th, 1986).
 

SOLO FLIGHT PLUS
Microprose/US Gold, 14.95 disk, joystick and keys


Solo Flight Plus is really an expansion on its acclaimed forerunner, Solo Flight. The plane the program is trying to simulate is an old single engine 1934 Ryan ST-A monoplane, a close relative of the famous Spirit of St Louis flown across the Atlantic by Charles Lindbergh in 1927. The new version of the popular flight simulator boasts a new cockpit design and flight instrumentation, more maps and high quality digitised speech. The program is essentially a trainer but also allows you (once you've mastered the art of flight) to take off and battle against the clock, adverse weather conditions and mechanical failures in special scheduled mail runs over several US states.

The simulation is quite an unusual one due to its novel viewpoint: the cockpit dials and displays are shown at the bottom of the screen as per normal and out of the window is the landscape, viewed in 3D style. Now, there's nothing special about that, but what is novel is that the plane is also seen on the landscape, viewed from above and behind. This makes it a lot easier to fly because you can see exactly what's going on.

Just because the plane is driven by a propeller doesn't mean it's uncomplicated to fly when compared with modern day jets, and one glance at the cockpit display soon shows that. There are four big dials snowing the airspeed indicator, attitude indicator, altimeter and vertical velocity indicator. Below are numerical displays showing pitch, flaps, heading indicator, vertical ascent/descent, radials from VOR 1 and 2, DME from VOR 1 and 2, landing gear indicator, brake light Indicator, weather indicator, ILS localiser, ILS glide slope indicator and time elapsed indicator. There is also a bar showing how much fuel is left. All these must be used to fly the plane successfully.

When the simulator is first loaded, an option screen is presented allowing you to choose between flying practice and going for a mail run. Choosing one of these puts you onto the next options screen which asks whether you would like to fly over Kansas, Washington, Colorado, Michigan, Massachusetts or Texas. If you choose the mail run option you're asked to input the level from the four provided: student, private, senior and command. Practice run also has four levels which are clear, landing, contest and IFR. After that it's up to you to choose whether you're flying by day or night.

The practice run offers a useful training mission and allows you to get the hang of flying the plane. The object of the practice run is to take off, fly a long loop around the runway and land again safely, and to help you with this simple manoeuvre the program offers both audio and visual aid. On taking off advice is offered in the form of superb digitised speech saying 'increase throttle and climb to 1500 feet'. You're told to 'retract landing gear' and 'turn left to 270 degrees'. If you're not following the instructions, flying too high or low, you are told of your mistake, and repeatedly told until the mistake is rectified. Verbal help is on hand all the way around the loop and if the instructions are dutifully followed than it's quite a simple task to land the plane. If you still can't get the hang of landing then you can try the landing option which puts you on the glide path down to the runway. Again speech is used to guide you through. This option really gets you used to landing the plane successfully.

The contest mode allows multiple players to compete in completing a tricky cross-wind landing and a score is given depending on how gently the plane touches down.

As a Mail Pilot your job is to deliver five mailbags to their destinations in the least amount of time. The program lets you decide how much fuel and mail to take (don't forget, the more mail and fuel on board the more the plane weighs, giving a loss in performance and speed). Once you've decided on your supplies, a map of the state you're overflying (as in 'US state') is displayed on screen, showing the landscape features and the five aerodromes you have to fly to. Using this it's up to you to plan the best possible route. As the game progresses the weather conditions gradually deteriorate with winds and clouds increasing, and there's a possibility that turbulence could develop. On the higher difficulty levels the plane is also prone to mechanical and instrument failure, for example the engine may overheat.

       

As you progress through the game you are given a score for the deliveries made and also for technically good landings, difficulty level and the State map chosen. There is an option to bring in an emergency at any time, done by pressing the E key. This starts a random emergency situation and it's advisable to swiftly find a place to land. If the plane is faulty at any time then landing at any aerodrome repairs the damage.

The program comes with comprehensive instructions, flying tips, approach tips and also a series of State maps showing VOR bearings and landscape features, all essential if you want to become a Mail Run Pilot.

   


Presentation 99%

Fabulous trainer option, excellent packaging and on-screen presentation.

Graphics 71%
Flickery 3D landscape which is rather spartan but reasonably effective.

Sound 92%
Loads of high quality speech, but other effects are average
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Hookability 81%
Flying is made simple with the trainer mode and consequently the simulator is highly enjoyable.

Lastability 80%
Once you're good enough the varied mail runs will keep you occupied for months.

Value For Money 80%
Average asking price for a disk product, but there's a whole lot of flying potential.

Overall 85%
An easy to use and highly enjoyable simulator, and one of the best at this price.
.

 

 

Htmlized by Dimitris Kiminas (15 Jan 2006)

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