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Last played this game several years ago now, but I still remember it pretty well. Wings is a First World War flight sim, but obviously not in the sad "let's fly from Glasgow to America in 4 hours" style. The game consists of three types of mission - patrol, strafing and bombing. Patrol involves your typical pilot's-eye-view flying around malarkey, in which you have a number of tasks, such as shoot down an enemy balloon, protect a balloon, patrol for enemy planes etc. You usually have back up, but may find yourself outnumbered from time to time. The graphics aren't too bad considering, but the sound effects are better and the period music is fab. Remember what you are flying, so don’t expect speed and manoeuvrability. The action is good once you spot the enemy, and its great fun to watch their wee red planes spiralling to the ground in a cloud of smoke (assuming they don’t get you first). It all looks chunky and dated now (a bit like Vanessa), but with the varied objectives and scenarios it does enough to keep you interested. Once you master the basic controls, which is easy, the dogfights become a bit of a repetitive chore, but the game keeps a tally of your kills, so there is an incentive to fight on and become an ace. The strafing part involves flying low over the trenches and shooting up soldiers, trains, trucks etc., whilst avoiding being shot down yourself. The view changes to what I suppose would be called isometric – you fly along an increasingly lengthy section of the trenches, where movement is limited. The action is fast and furious, and the graphics and sound are unsurprisingly much better in this section. A certain number of targets must be shot to be successful. Probably more fun than the dogfights. The final part involves a top down view of your plane and the ground beneath, like a classic shoot ‘em up. You have a limited number of bombs, and a list of targets to destroy (trains
, bridges and so on). Simple but effective gameplay, clear graphics and wonderful bomb dropping noises. This was my favourite part of the game. The missions are mixed up well, so you do a bit of everything – its not all flying about looking for a fight. Each one is introduced by a screen showing a page from your diary, which mentions some of the events in the war, what your squadron is up to and other details. This is a neat touch, and done in a lighthearted way: “squadron leader told Ginger to pull his finger out” kind of thing. You read about how the pilots keep getting younger and so on, and dare I say it – it is slightly educational. The flight sim part could not work on its own, but with the other two types of mission, it all adds up to something special. Flight sim buffs probably won’t like it, but hey, who cares – this is a game aimed at normal people. Don’t expect ultra-realism – the graphics are adequate at best. The learning curve is about right, with missions increasing in difficulty at a steady rate. Once you have played it a few times, there aren’t many more surprises, but you feel compelled to carry on regardless - Wings is strangely addictive, and well worth a look. Fondly remembered.