Review: 1942: Joint Strike

1942: Joint Strike is a classic top-down shooter developed by Backbone Entertainment and published by Capcom, appearing on both the Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network. Many know that this isn’t the first game in the 1942 series: the franchise is one of Capcom’s jewels and is considered a classic. The series extends back to 1984, the days when arcades ruled above home consoles. While many features and visuals have been altered, the basic formula has pretty much remained unchanged: shoot through a horde of airplanes, tanks, and ships, while dodging a massive amount of bullets.

Joint Strike is a short game that doesn’t have too much depth. To start off, you have a choice between three different planes, which isn’t a lot, and each plane isn’t very special either, so it doesn’t really matter what plane you choose because it makes a minimal difference while playing. You have your basic power-ups — red, blue, and green — and each power up is good in its own way, but the way you collect them is the problem. To acquire the power-up, you must run your plane into a power-up block (which appears randomly), but every three to four seconds the different powers shift from red to blue to green. This might be the way you originally had to obtain the power-ups but it isn’t a good method. You’ll often find yourself going for the red power-up and as soon as you pick it up, it shifts to blue and you’re left with the laser (which is my least favorite weapon). Also, I was expecting to be able to make my weapon extremely powerful, maybe powering it up around four to five times, but once you power-up your weapon twice, that’s as strong as it gets; any other power-up of the same color you collect becomes bonus points.

A big change in the series is the fact that it plays in widescreen. Many people might not notice it, but it makes the game considerably harder, seeing that you have to cover a lot more ground with a lot less space to move up vertically; in fact, it makes the game way too hard. You start off with nine lives and while it’s pretty easy to blast through the horde of enemies, once you get to the boss battles, you’re pretty much sure to die. The bosses pretty much take up the whole screen, leaving you with very little space to anticipate the path of bullets. You’ll find your lives dwindling down from nine to zero in no time, and since there are no checkpoints or game saves, once you lose your lives, you must start the whole game over again. Extra lives float across the screen every once in awhile, but seeing one is almost as rare as a Bigfoot sighting. The game can still be fun, but while playing on the easiest setting, I really should be able to play through a level without dying.

There are four different difficulty settings, and there is little difference between each one. It seemed that the easiest setting was just as difficult as the hardest setting, which shouldn’t be the case. The hardest setting is just slightly faster than the easier settings, but hit points and health remain the same. That being said, it took me about nine tries to beat the game on the easiest setting. It’s not fun when you’re just trying to go through the game easily but you find that it’s still really hard; Backbone Entertainment didn’t do a good job on distinguishing the two.

The control scheme for the game is very simple: you move with the left thumbstick and the face buttons control all of your weapons. Joint strike missiles are obtained by getting hit-combos, and bombs are obtained the same way other power-ups are obtained, except that these power-ups shift between replenishing your health and one extra bomb. With that being said, there were countless times where I tried to get more health, and at the last minute, it shifted to bombs and I was stuck with an extra one.

The visuals of the game are pretty good, but nothing’s really mind-blowing, especially when you compare the game to other games like Geometry Wars 2. Where the game does succeed, though, is with the WW2 feel; the visuals remind you of an old Pearl Harbor movie of some sort. The sound, however, is very poor: bad sound effects and a weak soundtrack make for an unpleasant listening experience.

What saves the game, you ask? It’s the online co-op mode. While there aren’t any different modes where you and your friend compete for score or just fight an infinite horde of enemies that grow stronger and stronger, playing the game’s campaign mode with a friend is much more entertaining than playing alone. The joint strike missiles are changed to a much cooler, team oriented attack. Also, the game works much better with co-op on the widescreen: you’re not overwhelmed with enemies from left to right because you and your friend can cover each side.

With that being said, the co-op mode isn’t perfect either. Once your friend loses all of their lives, you can’t give them any of yours. He/she is basically stuck to watch you for the rest of the game, or they have to quit.

Overall, 1942: Joint Strike has a major lack of polish. The game should’ve been tested by players, and I’m sure they would’ve said that the game is too hard. People often complain that a game is too easy, or say “the harder the better,” but once they play this game, I’m positive that they’ll change their minds. The game is fun, but it has no depth and is extremely short; it can be beaten in 30-40 minutes, but only after your tenth try, that is. If the game had some more modes or unlockables, it might have been worth your money, but unless you’re a die-hard 1942 fan or just extremely rich, you should probably pass on this game. It’s not worth your $10.

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