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1942: Joint Strike

Score: 75%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Backbone Entertainment
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 2; 2 (Online)
Genre: Arcade/ Shooter/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

One of my most disappointing moments in gaming was spending an entire afternoon completing 1942 on my NES only to be rewarded with a screen that said, "Good Job". Although 1942: Joint Strike didn't do much to alleviate this disappointment, it didn't take me more than an hour.

Visually, 1942: Joint Strike is somewhere between "great" and "okay". The entire game has a soft, hazy look that I really liked. I'm tempted to call it "plush", but that would probably give you the wrong idea. There's a lack of hard edges throughout the game, giving it a stock footage feel. Everything is rendered in full 3D and some of the smaller details, like heat haze coming off a volcano or bombed-out cities (with a few still-standing towers ready for you to destroy) are really nice.

The musical score works for the game. Although it sounds like noble, WWII music, it also has a bit of an old school arcade edge. The sound effects are equally fitting, although I did come across a few technical "pops" when on the default in-game volume settings. After dropping it about 1/3, the problems disappeared.


The 1942 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.


The only noticeable difference between the four available difficulty settings is the number of lives you're given. The lowest setting, Penguin, gives you nine lives while Wing King gives you one. Even on Penguin, 1942: Joint Strike is no easy task. Though it never gets to the point where it feels unfair, there are a few mental design lapses that can lead to cheap deaths. The two biggest offenders are the tank bosses; they're a little too powerful and some of their attacks are next to impossible to dodge.

Another of Joint Strike's missteps is the lack of continues. Once all your lives are gone, it is right back to the beginning. All this does is create artificial replay value and makes the harder difficulties more punishing.

Game Mechanics:

Like the original, there isn't much to 1942: Joint Strike's controls. The (A) button fires your main guns, while holding it down produces a more powerful blast, though you probably won't use it much since it isn't that much of an improvement. As you blast through enemies, you'll uncover three addition weapons that replace your normal guns. One gives you three machine guns while another produces a three-shot spread. The most useful of the power-ups is the laser, which slices through just about anything that gets in its way - which is really useful during boss fights.

For times when you have to clear out large groups of enemies or escape a harrowing situation, you can drop a screen-clearing bomb by pressing (Y) or, if you have a partner, unleash a Joint Strike Attack (if you're playing solo, Joint Strikes are replaced with a set of missiles).

1942: Joint Strike is a fun experience, at least if you're a fan of top-down shooters and have already blown through XBLA's library of similar games. At the same time, the experience is short lived with few reasons to go back and keep playing and the difficulty is pretty relentless, which will scare away players looking for a more "relaxed" experience.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Microsoft Xbox 360 Civilization: Revolution Sony PlayStation 3 Civilization: Revolution

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