Beach Head is an infamous war-based action game created by Access Software and first published for the Commodore 64 and Atari 8-bit computers in North America 1983. It was later released by US Gold in Europe in 1984.
The game is set in the Pacific theatre of the Second World War and features five individual stages of combat, each based on a fictitious amphibious assault of an enemy island. You can play Beach Head at four difficulty settings.
Beach Head begins with an overhead view of the landing area, and gives you two options: either try to sneak in through a hidden passage on the peninsula, or go for a full-frontal assault. If you choose the former it cuts to an isometric view of warships trying to negotiate a passage full of mines and torpedoes. Every time you manage to get one of your ten available ships through the maze of hazards you gain one more ship to take into the next stage. Unfortunately that means having to do this section ten times – once for each of your ten ships.
Next you have to shoot down enemy aircraft attacking your fleet, and you control a first-person, fast-firing flak gun that can have its elevation adjusted by pushing the joystick up or down, and its lateral position changed by pushing left or right. As the enemy fly towards you they drop bombs on your fleet and also try to strafe you.
The next section involves shelling enemy battleships using a heavy artillery gun. The view and control of this gun is exactly the same as before, only this time you fire single rounds and must wait for the previous round to hit before firing the next. The crucial aspect of this stage is in working out the exact range of the enemy ships by seeing where your shell falls, and then adjusting and trying again – until you score a direct hit. And you must keep doing this until all four of the enemy ships have been destroyed – before they can destroy you. You can also get a 10,000 point bonus for destroying the enemy aircraft carrier at the beginning, before it sidles off-screen, but that is a tough task.
If you manage to survive that it’s then onto a side-scrolling section where you must guide each one of your tanks through an isometric landscape of obstacles and enemy tanks and guns firing back at you. You get two tanks per surviving ship, so can end up with quite a few if you managed to get through the previous stages relatively unscathed. Also: for every tank that reaches the objective, the difficulty level for the next tank increases.
The final stage involves taking out an enemy fortress defended by a huge gun on top, before it turns to face you, taking you out. The more tanks you manage to get through on the previous stage, the greater your chances of success on this last stage. To destroy the gun you must land ten shells on various weak spots.
Playing Beach Head now, the game does seem to have dated somewhat, but it’s still fun to play and is well-programmed for the time. It’s the simplicity of the minigames, and the easy-to-understand controls, that make it playable and compelling.
A better sequel, called Beach Head II: The Dictator Strikes Back, was released by Access and US Gold in 1985.
More: Beach Head on Wikipedia