The Game Boy
game of The Hunt for Red October
by Hi-Tech Expressions
is possibly one of the finest link
games produced for the little handheld. In fact, I loved it so much I bought two copies (I had two Game Boys anyway).
The single player mode sees you, as Captain Ramius, making your way through eight levels of undersea action, battling Alfa class attack subs, SU-27s, Kirov destroyers, helicopters and hydrofoils in your attempts to reach the safety of the Gulf of Mexico (the route displayed onscreen sees you nearly reach the Bahamas but, so they could fit in an eighth level, suddenly takes a huge jaunt DIRECTLY AWAY from North America).
Despite the sidescrolling simplicity of the graphics, the game was still a surprisingly detailed recreation of of underwater submarine combat. The Red October would pitch up and down when surfacing and diving, which not only required care to negotiate tricky areas but useful in aiming torpedos. The Red October could activate the caterpillar drive to become invisible, but this could be negated if a surface vessel dropped a sonar buoy. At least, provided the Red October didn't shoot it. This made two player battles quite tactical as the fleet player would have to use a helicopter to fly over the Red October and drop the buoy, then quickly switch to an Alfa sub and close in to finish the job.
Each level ended with a ludicrous boss battle which destroyed the realism of the levels, as the Red October had to negotiate huge underwater installations reminiscent of the final room from Looping, complete with bouncing balls.
Two player mode truly saw the game come into its own. Player one was still the all-powerful Red October, but Player two was the Russian Convoy Commander. The Commander used a cursor to scroll around the levels and click on the static vehicles to take control of them and attempt to locate and destroy the Red October. Each vehicle had a unique set of armaments and controls - the jets were fast but hard to control, the choppers were easier but lacked the guided missiles and could be shot down more easily, and destroyers were extremely powerful but slow and limited by the large rocks which divided the surface of each level.
This might seem slightly unbalanced but in fact the game was perfectly fair... each of the fleet's vehicles was weak but they had strength in numbers, while the Red October was extremely powerful and had access to power-ups. My first link-up game saw me as the Red October NEARLY beat my friend's fleet and I was about a screen length away from the end of level 8.
Controls for Red October: A fires torpedos, B fires homing torpedos, Select activates caterpillar drive.
Controls for Fleet: A fires rockets/depth charges/torpedos, B fires homing torpedos/depth charges, Select drops sonar buoy. A + Select deselects current vehicle and returns to cursor mode (aircraft must be landed on an aircraft carrier, oil rig helipad or landing platform first or they'll explode!). In cursor mode, positioning the cursor over a vehicle and pressing A activates that vehicle.
I expect this will be quite a hard game to get a hold of, but if you've got a hankering for a decent Game Boy Pocket or Color game this is far superior to most of the Mary-Kate and Ashley crap you can get now anyway. Also recommended are Radar Mission and Power Mission for more naval link-up fun.