Operation Harrier logo

US GOLD £24.99 * Joystick

Enemy chiefs of staff have been spotted on a cruiser that is sailing right into your sector. Now is the time to strike a single blow that will set their war effort reeling. It is time for Operation Harrier to go into action.

Using your jump-jet's unique ability to climb and dive, you must seek out that ship and destroy it. Ranged against you is the cream of the enemy forces - jet fighters, missile bases and ships - all seeking to do you down. It is time to choose your weapons and get into the sky for an aerial battle.

Operation Harrier is played in Rotoscape, the system first used in Rotox. Now they have added a 3D-ish element, allowing the plane to climb and dive. Your plane sits in the centre of the screen and the whole world rotates around it. Fly forward and it looks like any other shoot-em-up, but when you bank into a turn you see the bullets from your cannon sweep to one side in an odd but realistic effect.

Flying this baby, meanwhile, could not be easier: just push the joystick to accelerate, press fire and push forward to dive.

Each of the missions sets a primary target that has to be blasted out of existence, but blatting anything else you encounter is positively encouraged. The target could be anything from a battleship to a ground station, while everything from helicopters to nuclear power plants are fair prey. If you miss the target first time round, do not panic: you can avoid disgrace by landing and reloading.

Flashing around in the sky is fun until the missiles start to home in. Other planes are no problem, especially if you picked sidewinders in the 'weapons selection' section. Their missiles are as dogged as yours, though, so if one is locked on your tail it is damned hard to shake it. Luckily, being British-built, Harriers can take four hits before going down in flames. The various weapons you can drop on the enemy are easily used but hard to target, which means you will have to take plenty of spares for a second run.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

Once again the Rotoscape engine proves to be a flexible games tool. While clever and easy to use, it does lack the glorious colours of other Amiga shoot-em-ups. The inter-game sequences try to make amends with huge pictures of carriers, crafts and commanding offers, but are essentially perhipheral and fail to lift the game into the realms of pictorial excellence.

JUDGEMENT

Operation Harrier has its moments, but they are generally well spaced. The armaments are not flexible, enough to allow it to encroach on pseudo-sim territory, while your plane is not deadly enough to tread on shoot-em-up toes. This leaves the Harrier wallowing in the turbulence of its own unique system. There is the sense that Op Harrier was designed around the Rotoscape system, rather than naturally fitting the style. This leaves the package strained, as good original concepts pull in different directions.