Nostalgia Lane: Flightmare

The underlying mission of doing Nostalgia Lane posts on this site is to reclaim lost bits of my memory — games that were moved into long-term storage decades ago and haven’t been seen since.

There was a particular game from my IBM PC days that I vaguely recalled — something about airplanes and bright magenta graphics — but I couldn’t remember the name. Then I stumbled across it a couple of days ago and experienced that pleasing rush of reclamation as long-term storage surged back into the forefront.

So the game that I was trying to think of was Flightmare, a 1984 title that remains a rather unique experience. It’s set during a post-apocalyptic world where all of the bad guys have total control of ground vehicles and the good guys have all of the planes. For some reason. Just go with it.

As a plane, your job is to fly out and intercept the motorcycles, trucks, and rockets that are gunning for your factories and airfields. If they reach them, they’re toast, and since the factories make new planes and the airfield stores them, this is a problem.

When you do intercept an incoming force, the game switches to the above screenshot that tries to simulate 3D in a non-3D gaming era. You get two views of your plane — from above and from the side — and you have to switch lanes from the above view and then dive down in the side view to blast the bad guys. This gets REALLY tricky when you have to shoot  the tires from a truck, since you can only do that when the truck goes up a hill — and those hills want to smash your plane like nobody’s business.

While all of this is happening, the world map keeps moving, so there’s an immense pressure to wrap up fights and jet to the next ones. But you also have to keep an eye on fuel and ammo, docking with a blimp when you’re low on either.

Flightmare was really tough, I remember, but pretty fun too. It was pure action with a little bit of snark in the form of battlefield messages from your foes and inspirational slogans from your side. I’ll always remember “Win one for the Gipper” from this game way before I knew who the “Gipper” actually was.

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