Flight Unlimited II
(Eidos Interactive) cd-rom
It's positively raining flight simulators at the moment, all claiming to be the most realistic ever. Well now there's another contender for the crown in the shape of Flight Unlimited II.
The game offers budding pilots the chance to fly one of five small aircraft over 11,000 square miles of the San Francisco Bay area. There are 48 different airports to visit and a whole host of hazardous weather conditions to contend with, including lightning storms and crosswinds. And for those who want to do a bit more than admire the scenery, there are a number of different scenarios to tackle, from helping prisoners to escape from Alcazatraz, to dealing with mechanical failures.
The original Flight Unlimited promised much but delivered relatively little, and it's a similar story with this sequel. Cruising along admiring the landscape is enjoyable enough, but it could hardly be described as exhilarating. There are plenty of nice things about the game, like the fact you can chat to the aircraft controllers, and the graphics are impressively smooth, but there isn't enough substance.
The photo-realistic scenery is superb if you're flying at a great height, but get a bit closer and it becomes disappointingly bland. Your enjoyment is also hampered by the fact that you're limited to the Bay area and to a choice of just five civilian aircraft. Microsoft Flight Simulator '98 by comparison features all manner of flying contraptions and provides locations around the globe to fly them in.
It's very good at what it does but ultimately Flight Unlimited II doesn't do enough.
On release, pounds 39.99
Bust a Move 3Dx
Bust a Move 2 was a big success, selling more than 250,000 copies, so it's no surprise that there is now a new and improved version - Bust a Move 3Dx.
The object of the game is simple - as the screen slowly fills with bubbles, you have to burst them all before they reach the bottom of the game zone. The advancing bubbles are destroyed using a bubble launcher, which shoots out one bubble at a time. You have to fire the launcher in such a way as to complete a sequence of three or more like-coloured bubbles. This makes the bubbles burst and the player is awarded points according to how many bubbles were in the sequence.
There are four different modes of play: arcade mode, in which you play one game after another and try to amass as many points as possible; challenge mode, where the computer sets you a series of increasingly difficult bubble-related tasks; contest mode, in which you compete against a series of computer-generated opponents, the winner being the first one to clear their screen; and collection mode, where you can play on levels designed by other Bust a Move fans. There is also an editing tool which allows you to design your own levels and save them to a memory card.
Whatever mode you play the game in, one thing remains the same; the gameplay is hugely addictive. It's the most compelling puzzler since Tetris on the Gameboy. It might not have fancy 3D graphics or a killer soundtrack but Bust a Move 3Dx is as playable as they come and is one to add to the shopping list.
On release, pounds 29.99