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Atari Cyberweek
Written by  :  Katakis | カタキス (43089)
Written on  :  Nov 03, 2022
Platform  :  Commodore 64
Rating  :  4.2 Stars4.2 Stars4.2 Stars4.2 Stars4.2 Stars

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An unusual shooter that punishes you for poor performance

The Good

Black Hawk is a top-down, vertically-scrolling shooter from Creative Sparks (formerly Thorn EMI). Instead of offering a shooter that behaves like all the others, destroying aircraft that go down toward you and collecting power-ups that upgrade your weapons, what the developers did was took that formula and tweaked it. It was created by Dean Lock, who took it upon himself to include an impressive animation of a key unlocking something. On top of that, a nice rendition of Wagner’s “Flight of the Valkyries” can be heard.

You are flying the Black Hawk, a plane equipped with an on-board computer that has two built-in displays, one for attack and the other for defence. You’re passing over a group of islands containing gun positions, rocket launching sites, power lines, barbed wire, radar dishes, and an airfield. These are targets you need to destroy. Several aircraft including enemy anti-aircraft guns, helicopter gunships, SAM missiles, and missile launchers are out to get you. When you have shot down enough of these, you switch to the attack display. This is where you are given an opportunity to destroy these targets. A rocket launcher now appears at the bottom of the screen, and you position it so that it faces the target you want to destroy, then you move a white cross-hair over it and press fire. The cross-hair will now turn red, and a rocket will be launched at the target. If successful, a huge chunk of it will be demolished. Black Hawk demands your full attention to everything on the screen; being too trigger-happy without noticing the aircraft zooming past you causes the game to switch back to the defence display.

When you complete each mission, you are presented with a stats screen that shows your SLF (Strategic Loss Factor), which is the equivalent to the score in most games. Accompanying this is the OTPF (Optimal Target Percentage Figure) counter. If this is high enough, you are awarded several weapons. These include the ECM Pod, which shows radar positions and radio towers; XCannon, which provides a double shot; Blitvig, a smart bomb; and Wild Weasel, a power-up that gives you temporary invulnerability. If you perform poorly in a mission, you forfeit most of these weapons.

I was wrong to assume that Black Hawk was a flight simulator; it is in fact an enjoyable shooter where you are encouraged to watch everything on screen. I was used to the defence display immediately; but when dealing with the attack display, it took me a few moments just to figure out how to wipe out the targets. Once I did, though, I had a hell of a time destroying everything while making sure I destroyed any aircraft that passes by. The white cross-hair reminds me of the one in Xevious, another classic shooter. The more you destroy the incoming aircraft, the less chance I would revert back to the defence display. I also had to get used to the inconsistent displays (I noticed the defence display lags behind the attack one). I always knew when I reached the end of the mission if I see a body of water and hear Wagner’s piece play again. Graphic-wise, the islands are well designed, the explosions are impressive, and everything that moves is at the correct scale. It is quite rare to see the airfield, but when you do, it looks very good.

The Bad

When one of the aircraft destroys you and the Black Hawk goes into pieces, you could have respawned straight away. Instead, the game takes you back to the gray screen for a few seconds while you are told you are approaching the enemy coast. Also, music and sound effects cannot be played together, meaning that once you hear "Flight of the Valkyries" again during the mission, the sound effects cut out.

The Bottom Line

Black Hawk is an unusual shooter where you are trying to bomb specific targets on a group of islands. What’s unique about it is you are dealing with two displays, and one of them is a nod to Xevious. The graphics and sound are very good, and anyone who enjoys shooters, especially unusual ones like this, should try out this game.

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