series has never been big on story and 1942: Joint Strike
carries on the tradition. You are a lone pilot in the Pacific theater in an alternate version of WWII. Each level is split into two sections: the first half pits you against squadrons of enemy planes, tanks and ships, and the second features a boss battle with a giant prototype vehicle. The first level also features a third "Escape" phase where you need to outrun an approaching enemy. I'm still not sure why the phase is even around since it has no bearing on the rest of the game, leading it to feel like padding.
Like other top-down shooters, the game is based solely around pattern recognition and quick reflexes. Enemies always come out in the same patterns, giving it a methodical pace. The same goes for bosses, who also add a manic, "Bullet Hell" feel to the game where you have to dodge large groups of bullets. This goes on for five levels, after which there isn't much of a reason to continue playing unless you want to try your hand at a harder difficulty setting. There's only one unlockable (and even that might be more trouble than it's worth), which is a significant missed opportunity. Even something as small as unlockable continues (similar to Omega Five) or a boss rush mode would have been a nice addition.
1942: Joint Strike is more fun with a friend, though even that has a number of limitations. For one, each player has to use a different plane, which is just silly. On top of that, unless you have someone who can play with you on the same console, you'll have a hard time finding someone to play with since it is next to impossible to find a game on Xbox LIVE. Granted, this is a problem faced by most XBLA games, but if online is your only means for two-player action, it's a bit of an issue.