Review - MiG Alley Ace


18616 Beaver Dam Road
Hunt Valley, MD 21030

by Patrick Kelley/Pilot, North Korean Air Force

Streaking through the cloudless skies in my MiG-15 fighter, I can't help but feel a certain amount of pity for my opponents today and the fate they will soon meet. The blanket of air superiority is ours: from north of the Yalu river to over 100 miles into Korea no aircraft can challenge us. In the area the American fliers call "MiG Alley" we are invincible. We are the undisputed masters of the sky. Today will be no different. My pulse quickens as I see a flash of sunlight gleaming off metal in my rear mirror, and I roll to meet it. As I increase throttle to my MiG's engine the distance between us narrows. It is an American aircraft, escorted closely by his wingman. Smiling grimly, I arm my cannon and ready myself for battle. We will clash at close to the speed of sound, and the slightest miscalculation will mean instant death. I wonder what my enemy is thinking as I lower my helmet visor.

If this sounds to you like the stuff from which exciting computer games could be made, consider it already done. MiG Alley Ace, the new combat/flight simulator from MicroProse Software, is exciting. In MiG Alley Ace you can select any number of computer-determined scenarios taken from the Korean air war. You can play them out either in a co-operative mode with another player as squadron leader and wingman against a computer controlled MiG, or as pilot against pilot in a one-on-one dogfight.

The playability and controls of the game are excellent, albeit somewhat touchy in the targeting department. Even an armchair pilot like myself found it a cinch to pull off rolls, dives, loops and even a few messy split "s's" without slamming into the ground. It's pretty easy to imagine the G-forces pressing you into your couch as you put your plane through its paces, and you almost wish you had a pressure suit to force the blood back into your extremities after you pull yourself out of a flat spin. The graphics are a bit on the crude side -- but have a certain imagination behind them. (For example, as you take your plane away from the area of the sky where the sun is on the day combat mode, a crescent moon fills the sky.)

For novices this game will be a bit intimidating the first time you take joystick in hand, but it will provide lots of thrills once you master a few of the basics. I myself like playing the co-op mode where you engage the computer-controlled aggressor, instead of playing mano a mano with publisher Lee Pappas (a pilot in real life.) I have a pointer for potential MiG Alley Aces -- watch your altimeter gauge! Many a good battle was cut short when yours truly wasn't watching his altitude and took his plane into a 700 MPH rendezvous with the ground, a maneuver not endorsed by the USAF Flight Training School. If you have a forgiving friend or tolerant enemy the one-on-one mode can't be beat. Otherwise, you'll just have to take it the hard way and go against the computer (not a good confidence builder!) to earn the title of MiG Alley Ace.

[MiG Alley Ace screenshot]

by Lee Pappas/Captain, U.S.A.F.

Another day, another strike. When will those Reds learn that Americans aren't trained to fly -- we're born to fly. It almost seems unfair as I pour steel-jacketed slugs into my adversary. Then I remember that Pat Kelley is my co-worker and friend, and I sure feel terrible (with a glint in my eye) as I blast him out of the blue.

MiG Alley Ace is a must-have for any Atari game fanatic. Split in two parts, the upper half of your screen is your point of view, and the lower half your opponent's. In one-player mode (you vs. the computer) the lower half shows the computer's "over the panel" view. A small readout under each viewpoint shows altitude, velocity, number of ammo rounds and power setting. A "rearview" mirror assists in spotting enemy aircraft on your tail.

Player(s) One control(s) the gray planes, Player Two (or the computer) flies the orange. The aircraft can roll, dive, crash, explode and shoot. They also vary in size depending on distance, and a plane will be shown in respect to its opponent's altitude. In other words, if you're taking your F-86 Sabre into a steep climb, it'll appear that way on your opponent's lower screen half The same is true whether you're diving, looping or doing other maneuvers. With an increased power setting, you can climb to heights in excess of 30,000 feet and do such fancy aerobatics as looping and crazy-8's, but watch that altitude or you'll meet Mr. Ground. Observers of the Pappas/ Kelley battles have been known to scramble out of the office in search of Dramamine.

It takes several hits to down an enemy plane. When your rounds come into contact with your opponent's plane, it will glow red for a second. After several hits he'll lose power entirely. With a few more shots he'll never even have a chance to bail out (CONTROL Q) before his plane explodes. There have been rare occasions where I've had enough altitude to glide powerless long enough to seek revenge on my enemy, thus making him crash first, giving me the points he might have received.

The game has a few occasional graphic bugs: some screen glitches (understandable, considering how much is going on), the sun passing in front of the ground, and the moon not changing angle when the horizon does. However, these aren't major, and most people wouldn't even notice them. One minor quirk: even though the MiG-15 and the F-86 Sabre aren't exactly state-of-the-art aircraft by today's standards, they are jets. Anyone listening to MiG Alley Ace will quickly notice that the planes sound prop-driven (ala the movie Airplane!)

MicroProse has another great flying scenario on their hands (they also wrote Solo Flight), and this game should have you on the edge of your seat. And, as in my case, you may even reach a point where no one will play with you (even with the small bullet handicap) because you have truly struck fear into their hearts!

[MiG Alley Ace graphic]

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Original text copyright 1984 by ANALOG Computing. Reprinted with permission by the Digital ANALOG Archive.