Version 2.2 May 20, 2003
COMPANY: John Coogan, ShipHunt Fleet Operations
They say good things often come in small packages. In the case of the PDA subsim ShipHunt, that holds true. Designed by John Coogan as a sort of "mini-Aces", ShipHunt is compatible with any Palm operating system PDA. For the first time I was able to take a subsim with me to the beach, Taco Bell, and during one of my wife's typically long shopping ordeals. Part of this review was done while waiting in line at the Dept. of Motor Vehicles. If you own a Palm O/S PDA, having ShipHunt at your command is a blessing when you have time on your hands.
You command a WWII-era diesel sub on patrol in waters rich with merchants, destroyers, battleships, and carriers. The controls and readouts are ample if somewhat scaled down from a PC subsim. To dive or surface, you change the sub's dive angle and speed. When you reach periscope depth, the damage control screen toggles out with the periscope view. Enemy warships and targets are rendered as simple profiles and can face several angles from bow on to 90° angle on the bow. They vary in size according to range and though it can be difficult to distinguish between them, on the whole the display is really well done for a 2.5" screen. By tapping on a visible ship, the First Officer gives you the range and class of warship.
Targeting target motion analysis is done by eye. Once you get the crosshairs on a vessel, you can fire up to four torpedoes. It takes a couple minutes for a tube to reload, which is good for gameplay. It takes more than one hit to sink the larger warships--and they do suffer damage. When stricken they usually lose propulsion. Sink a ship and you are rewarded with a surprisingly good graphic of a ship going down by the stern.
The tactical map has two zoom levels and a depth charge screen that lets you determine where threats are coming from. Marking a checkbox allows you to view the ocean independently of your helm controls. I found this a little confusing--at times I was unsure if I was turning the scope or the whole boat. A sub silhouette with a sweep helps to keep you oriented but this is one area that may cause new players to stumble.
ShipHunt has numerous pieces of equipment that can sustain casualties. Damage control is reported to the player but there isn't much he can do but monitor it. Wrecked gear will have a direct effect on the sub's ability to change depth, fire torpedoes, and maintain headway.
Ship Hunt Development History by John Coogan
"I've always been fascinated by submarines, even more so since seeing the movies 'Das Boot' and 'Hunt for Red October'. My wife gave me 'Blind Mans Bluff' for Christmas 2002, along with other submarine reference books. Yet I have never watched or played a submarine simulator game. The creation of ShipHunt was built upon researching and piecing together information from the web and other references. Also, great information was gleaned from reading several U-Boat Captain’s Logs. Upgrade ideas and more exact information has come through submarine enthusiast customers, too! The concept behind ShipHunt was to create a compact application that forces the user to make the same decisions a real WWII Submarine Captain would have to make, while at the same time challenging the player to figure out how to employ a submarine’s stealth."
"The greatest response I get is from the new user who asks the tough questions, such as, "How come the torpedoes don't reload instantly?"; "How do I get the air supply to last longer?"; "How do I out-run depth charges?”. My reply: "Captain: What do you hear?... What do you see?... What are your assets?... Where is the Enemy?... These answers will be found in your own skills and ingenuity. I hope ShipHunt, in it's own very compact way, pulls users into the reality of these heart-pounding decisions."
While the basic strategies of WWII gameplay are present in ShipHunt, everything occurs at an accelerated clip. You have to manage your air supply, batteries, fuel levels, weapons, and helm as you would in any other subsim. You have 28 torpedoes and they can miss, so use them wisely. ShipHunt includes a snorkel that allows you to recharge your batteries and air supply. Fuel can be depleted before torpedoes, which ended several of my games prematurely. Of all the factors that influence the action, fuel was the one I felt played a disproportionately large role in the game. Game difficulty has four levels, from "Easy" to Suicidal", so as you build skill you can increase the challenge.
With the high rate of consumables and targets that are in the vicinity at the start of each game, there is no lag between battles. A PC subsim is geared for more realistic "hunting"; ShipHunt is paced for engaging, fast-paced, and brief battles, which makes sense for a game meant to be a portable diversion. Any kind of game on a PDA is going to have limitations imposed by screen size and controls but ShipHunt really puts together a good package of gameplay, gauges, and strategy. You won't mind the next protracted wait in the doctor's office with ShipHunt in your pocket.
ShipHunt is available at the ShipHunt Website
Discuss ShipHunt in the Radio Room
Software for Palm O/S and compatible PDAs.
Supports Color and Grayscale devices.
© 2003 SUBSIM Review