Solomon's Key for the NES was released in Japan on this day in 1986.

Parsoft Interactive

Overview

ParSoft is the brainchild of one Eric Parker. Eric isn't well known in the gaming world, largely as a result of being a Mac guy when he started, and also by being an e-recluse for the majority of his career. That's kind of a drag really, because he's the brains behind a variety of flight sims that are little known technical tour-de-forces that compete toe to toe with the huge releases from people likes Janes or MS.

ParSoft's first game started on the Mac way back in '90 or so, called Hellcats Over the Pacific. Everything about this game was way ahead of it's time. It was the first I saw that only updated the bits of the screen that actually changed, and as a result ran very fast in 256 color at any resolution - which matched nicely with the Mac because they always supported higher resolutions even way back then. It was the first that had any sort of feel to the flight model, excellent graphics, an immersive world (where you could fly way into the rear and still find things), fantastic combat, a great GUI (no "game screens" for setup, just plain old Mac menus) and lots of attention to detail. A sequel called Leyte Gulf added new missions and many more ground and air objects as they filled out the game engine and squeezed out some more performance.

These games were both utterly amazing to play - more fun than anything with the possible exception of Red Barron (the first one, when it was good). I can't tell you how exciting it was to run down onto a Japanese carrier in a hail of bullets, drop your bomb, and then pull out into the waves of Zeros. It's still completely playable today.

Although developed by ParSoft, the game was released by Graphics Simulations. Soon after the release of Leyte you started hearing rumors of a new F-18 simulator from them, and soon you started seeing it at shows. However by this time there had been a falling out between the two companies and Eric appears to have told them to shove it, and went his own way. GraphSim went on to hire other programmers to complete the game, and it sucks. They also sold the original graphics engine to ICI who used it to make the original versions of WarBirds.

ParSoft then turned to A-10 Attack. Once again you saw the attention to detail applied to everything in the game engine. Runway lights would come on as the night progressed, and you could then turn on the cockpit lighting inside to see the instruments. The physics model was greatly improved and a superb damage model was added that made the game much more engrossing. Best of all was the mission system, although there was still no campaign mode the rest of the engine worked very well. Pressing Escape while flying put the plane on autopilot and brought up a windowed map with icons representing the various items you could see. You could click on them and interact with each item with menus, setting waypoints, getting information, etc. Action took place over a map of Germany, from about the Rhine's exit into the north sea to Rostock.

Another mission set was released two years later called A-10 Cuba, which was also ported to Windows. Sadly the Win people got ripped off, the upgrade plugged right into the existing A-10 on the Mac and allowed you to have full control over the map as before, whereas on the PC this was all removed and never added back in.

ParSoft's final effort was Fighter Squadron. This time they had a real team on the job and the game's physics were fully explored. Sometime during its release however Eric basically gave up on the flight sim world and has disappeared from the planet it seems. The remains of Fighter Squadron were bought out by the rest of the programming team who set up as Inertia Games and would go on to release a radio-control simulator using the same engine.

Trivia

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