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Warbirds - The Atari Times


Snoopy would be pleased
by Derek Patenaude

February 14, 2005
I remember playing this game for the first time with my friends, and all I could think of (and my friends agreed) is how did the tiny Lynx manage to pull off a polygon/scaled sprite flight simulator that rivaled or surpassed its larger scale counterparts. While the single player has some shortcomings, the multiplayer option makes this definitely one of the shooters to own if you have an Atari Lynx.

Warbirds is a circa World War I flight simulator that allows you to pilot a biplane against up to three computer controlled opponents on the single player mode and up to four players when comlynxed. There are a ton of options that are easily laid out for you to customize your battles, from your supply of ammo, ability to take damage, collisions and mission choice. Do you think biplanes are too slow for you? Put the game into arcade mode and strap on a faster engine with better steering. If there is one minor complaint about the options presented is that there is no story mode where the battles could be put into a context and give you a goal for the game. Such an option would have probably made the single player experience a much more rewarding one.

That being said, once you enter the world of Warbirds you will be amazed at the graphical content. The background consists of a polygon-based countryside that scrolls across at a fairly good framerate (far superior to the sluggish Steel Talons). A sprite-based cockpit frames the screen and your opponents and clouds around you consist of some wonderfully drawn scaled sprites. The resolution does decrease as you close in on a target or cloud but this does not hamper the impressive effect that the game leaves on the player whatsoever. There is no in game musical theme, nor does it feel like their should be. What is there, is a competent set of sound effects for the rat-a-tatting of the machine guns, whir of the engine and propeller as you descend climb or idle, and the echo of one of your prey (or yourself) as the plane drops to the ground. The intro musical theme is well done and you are treated to some very nice digitized photos after the end of your battles.

But how does she fly you may ask? And the answer would have to be, spectacularly. Whether you are playing simulator or arcade mode, the plane seems to have the right amount of give and resistance whether you are trying to pull a sharp turn, nose dive, or loop de loop. There are little framerate issues and leaves the game with an extremely polished feel to the controls. You are also able to look all around your plane by holding on to the B button and choosing the appropriate direction to scan around the plane for targets. This is a simple to use, wonderful in execution and adds significantly to gameplay. You can almost picture looking over your left shoulder seeing an opponent trying to get around you or watching an opponent trying to loop over your head. The only weapon is a machine gun and although sometimes it is hard to detect whether or not you are hitting a target there's an audio cue that does so.

There also lots of subtle nuances which make the game special, such as the ability to cut your engine and glide, and the ability to look at the gauges in your cockpit. The range of enemy AI is quite good and provides enough challenge for the rookie and those who want to master the intricacies of shooting down WWI flying aces such as the Red Baron.

Since there is no real story mode the real way to get the most out of this title is to find a friend and duke it out with one another. The multiplayer is loads of fun and can add a lot more length to an already quality cart. The strength of Warbirds is its spectacular scaling graphics, and it easy to pick up but harder to master gameplay, these pluses and the multiplayer more than outweigh the title's lack of story mode and make it one of the highly recommended titles that can really show off what the Lynx can do.

Nice bi-plane coming out of the screen!
Sometimes the bad guys are hiding in the clouds...
...and other times they're sneaking up behind you!
There are several customizations.
System: Lynx
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Simulation
Graphics Score: 95%
Sound & Music Score: 80%
Gameplay Score: 85%
Control Score: 90%

Final Score: 88%

Reader Comments for Warbirds

Emulation by Gregory D. George on 2006-10-02 23:31:55
Man, I wish this worked with Handy! I've never been able to get a copy for the real thing! If only I had bought it in the stores those years ago.
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