With the exception of ‘Lemmings’ or ‘Worms’ he would usually notice if I was playing a game but not really get involved. I didn’t really want to break it to him that I hadn’t paid much attention to the mission goals and was just enjoying going around in my apache helicopter blowing up anything that moved. “Let me help you” he says as he begins to draw up an intricate annotated map with arrows and something called ‘dependencies’. This is how my Dad became my official ‘Desert Strike’ cartographer and the reason I ended up giving it far more than a cursory glance in my youth.
“The actual sprites used in the [main] game were a long way from these [opening sequence images] but gamers saw what they wanted. One allows his imagination to fill in the details” based on the things they have already seen.
Notably on the third stage you have to rescue some diplomats from an embassy under siege. As they flee from capture they all board a bright yellow bus which you must escort and protect until it leaves the map. This all sounds fantastically exciting, but limited ammunition makes it near impossible without every single shot you fire hitting a desired target. There’s little margin for error, as even fully stocked with all the weapons available to you there so many enemies shooting at once staying on top of them all while avoiding damage being taken by your helicopter or the bus is ludicrously hard. Also on my first attempt at this mission I didn’t realise that I would have to escort the prisoners once I had freed them. I had collected only enough fuel to get me to the embassy in the first place, never expecting to have to do things beyond this. In a hail of gunfire leaving the bus alone to get more fuel guaranteed failure, yet without enough in the tanks mission success was impossible. Failing through lack of preparation should be accepted as a part of ‘Desert Strike’, but failing because there was not enough information given to make informed decisions is unfair.