1. Archive

Secret Weapons Over Normandy

Published Aug. 27, 2005

Company: LucasArts

System: Windows

Price: $49.99

I will admit to a bit of drool forming at the corners of my mouth when I was told I would be reviewing Secret Weapons Over Normandy.

In 1991, when Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe came out, I was one of the few kids in my town who had a computer beefy enough to run it. Some think SWOTL, as it was nicknamed, was one of the greatest computer games of all time. Secret Weapons Over Normandy is the revival of that game franchise.

Tough legacy to follow. Real tough.

And, even after playing it quite a bit, I'm not sure if Normandy lives up to its older brother. Maybe I'm being overly nostalgic (in computers, 1991 easily fits into nostalgia), but there's something missing from Secret Weapons Over Normandy.

I guess it's reality.

Luftwaffe was a simulator with a game wrapped around it. Normandy seems to be a game with a simulator mashed into it. Simulator fans will find the flight controls a little too gamish _ Newton would be appalled at some of the things I was doing with my plane the other day _ and short-fused gamers will find the finer points of learning to fly too, oh, adult.

That said, the game does try to appease both. There are two ways to land: the real way, with landing gear and slow speed, and the game way, flying through a token in the sky that automatically lands you. So clearly, the makers tried to appease both crowds.

But that's what's so unsatisfying about it. It could be a great simulator, or it could be a great game. But it's neither. Instead, it's a fair simulator and a really entertaining game. If you've ever played a flight game before, you'll be right at home.

The game is fun, don't get me wrong. But it's not Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe great.

(Note: If you buy the game, pay close attention to the hardware requirements needed to play the game. They're pretty robust. And also strongly consider buying a joystick or flight yoke. Flight controls on the keyboard are awkward and lead to a lot of missed bomb runs or unintended kamikaze missions.)

_ MATTHEW WAITE, Times staff writer