Ace of Aces, Atari 8-bit

Ace of Aces is a WWII-based air combat action game developed by Canada-based Artech Digital Entertainment and published by US Gold in the UK and Accolade in the USA. It first came out on the Commodore 64 in 1986 and was later released for other systems, including for the Atari 8-bit machines in 1987. The Atari version was developed by another Canadian company called Distinctive Software.

Ace of Aces was originally released on cassette and disk for the Atari, and later a cartridge version (for the Atari XEGS) was released by Atari Corporation in 1988. If you’re going to play the game now the cartridge version is probably the one to go for because there are no load times.

The game is basically a series of air combat-based minigames, from within a British Mosquito fighter bomber, that mix cockpit viewpoints with overhead bombing viewpoints (much in the same way as the classic B-17 Bomber for the Mattel Intellivision), and pressing the number keys changes between these views, and also gives access to a map screen which is an overview of your targets over Europe.

You can practise dogfights, bombing trains, bombing u-boats, or do individual missions (intercepting V-1 rockets, shooting down enemy bombers, bombing u-boats), or take on all four of those missions at once (a tough ask). You set your weapons and fuel loadout before setting off, choosing how many bombs, missiles, machine gun ammo, and fuel pods to add, then your mission begins in the sky. There are no takeoffs or landings although you can return to base if you’re damaged or low on fuel.

The focus in Ace of Aces is mostly about shooting stuff down from the cockpit, or bombing stuff through the bomb bay doors (which you have to manually open when you’re above your target). Reaching a target involves carefully checking the map and making sure you’re flying on the right heading to reach it; engaging any enemy fighters on the way (or flying into the clouds to evade them), and then destroying your primary target. For each enemy aircraft you shoot down, or each enemy target successfully bombed, you are awarded points and can check your points status by pressing the space bar at any time.

Ace of Aces does take a little while to get to know how to play properly, but overall it’s a simple and fairly rewarding game, if a little lacking in longevity. The cloud effect is nice, and controlling the mosquito feels quite good – once you’ve familiarised yourself with how it flies. Setting up the loadout on every mission does become tiresome after a while, but if you’re astute you’ll know what you need and don’t need for each mission and should be able to set your loadout pretty quickly.

Overall, Ace of Aces on the Atari is arguably even better than the Commodore 64 original. I think the cloud effect is better in the Atari version, which gives it a slight edge in my opinion.

More: Ace of Aces on Wikipedia

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