P.H.M. Pegasus was developed by Lucasfilm Games and first published by Electronic Arts in 1987. It is a naval combat simulation where the player uses helicopters, convoy ships and hydrofoils to patrol and survey the sea, to clear areas of enemy forces, and escort friendly ships through risky waters.
The title of the game refers to “U.S.S. Pegasus“, a hydrofoil – and lead ship in her class – which was used by the US Navy in the 1970s. Pegasus class vehicles were designed for speed and mobility and also carried powerful armaments for their size.
The game features eight different missions, plus a demo mode. The first mission is a training mission where the aim is to simply destroy all enemy ships you come across. To do this you patrol the area, target and identify ships, and engage anything hostile. Pressing ‘V’ toggles between the operations map and the first-person bridge view.
You can use an autopilot function to travel to a specific place on the map. From the map screen you press F1; move the crosshair to where you want to move to; then press the fire button to set the autopilot; then press 1 to 5 to set the craft’s movement speed (five being the fastest). If you move the joystick left or right when the autopilot is engaged it reverts back to manual control (if you do this accidentally then it’s at least easy enough to restart the autopilot again by going to the map screen and pressing F1 and fire again – the game at least remembers the position of your crosshair).
When you have an enemy ship within visual range you can press ‘T’ to cycle through available targets (which are shown in the binoculars at the top of the screen). You can then press ‘W’ to cycle through your weapons (gun, missiles or chaff) and fire at them (or release chaff if they’re firing missiles at you).
On-screen messages appear at the bottom to tell you what’s happening, and an indicator in the bottom right shows damage to your ship. For navigation there’s a radar, a compass, a speed indicator, a depth indicator (which flashes red if you’re in the shallows and in danger of beaching), and a lock-on indicator (which flashes red if an enemy is locked onto you).
Other features include: auxiliary craft (depending on your assignment these can include helicopters or a convoy of ships) that you can operate from the map screen, and time compression so you can speed up events (by pressing Shift and plus or minus).
The game’s manual provides “spotter cards” for identifying vessels, and also more detailed information about them. If you don’t have access to the manual then you’re really going to be fighting blind.
P.H.M. Pegasus is an interesting game, but the frame rates are quite low – dropping down to one or two frames per second at times. That said: the game’s slowness doesn’t make it any less engaging, when you get into it and understand how to use the time compression feature effectively.
According to lead designer Noah Falstein: P.H.M. Pegasus was Lucasfilm Games‘ biggest ever hit at the time of its release, and the company’s “first 100,000-plus-seller”, which goes to show how popular the game was back in 1987.
A spiritual successor to this game, called Strike Fleet, was released by Electronic Arts in 1988 and it is definitely the better of the two games. P.H.M. Pegasus is not a bad game at all – in fact it’s a very good game – but it’s probably just a bit too slow for its own good. If you’re a naval warfare fan and like the historical context of this game then you’ll probably enjoy it. Everyone else will probably liken it to watching paint dry.