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iPhone  header logo

1942: First Strike

For: iPhone

...second, third, and out!

Product: 1942: First Strike (iPhone) | Publisher: Capcom | Format: iPhone | Genre: Arcade, Retro | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0.1
1942: First Strike (iPhone) iPhone, thumbnail 1
Even though I've seen Saving Private Ryan and all ten hours of Band of Brothers, I'm grudgingly prepared to admit that I don't really have battlefield experience.

To the soldiers who fought in the Second World War, the ordeal was long and brutal. To me, it's usually over in an afternoon, and not very dangerous.

In a way, 1942: First Strike bears a similar relation to the 1942 that came to the arcades in 1984. The original is brutal, thrilling, and comes with a life expectancy of about a minute. The new one is gentle, attenuated, and comes with a life expectancy almost as long as the game itself.

While it's not necessarily logical to compare games on two different platforms, understanding the difference between the two versions of 1942 is key to understanding this iPhone version's shortcomings.

Recycled air

1942: First Strike isn't a direct conversion of the original game. This is most evident in the controls, which by default involve tilting your device to steer your plane around like an orange on a tray. There's also an option to to steer directly with a finger if you prefer.

It must have been hard for Capcom to choose which one to make default. In a game that requires precision of movement, tilting isn't ideal and the option to adjust the sensitivity doesn't help much.

To be fair, tilting does have the advantage of not forcing you to obscure part of the screen with a finger. It means that if you want to deploy your special powers – located in the bottom two corners – you don't have to lift your finger and leave your plane without a pilot to do so.

Direct finger control is marginally more intuitive, but it tends to confine you to the bottom of the screen: the farther up you travel, the more you obscure, and the greater the chance a bullet or line of enemy craft will zip unseen along the length of your finger and ram you senseless.

No in-flight entertainment

To compensate for the compromised controls, Capcom has made the action far less intense than in other versions of 1942 and given you a health bar comprising ten blocks. 

The screen is comparatively free of planes, bullets, boats, and tanks to give you a fighting chance, but the result is an occasionally listless game that you drift through, soaking up inconsequential shots, replenishing your health often with power-ups, and not having to try hard enough.

If you die, you can continue at the cost of the points you've accrued so far, but the game is short and easy enough that you may never face this choice.

Once you're done with 1942: First Strike, you can replay it twice with the two planes you didn't pick first time around. The Shinden is fast and powerful, but fragile; the Mosquito is slow, but powerful and robust; and the Lightning is a good all-rounder, equally but not outstandingly fast, powerful, and robust.

Holding pattern

The levels are reminiscent of the arcade original. You start over the sea, then spend a few levels over the land, and finally end up over territory made up of land and sea.

Between this token level of variety, the two control schemes, the short game length, and the choice of three planes, 1942: First Strike offers some replay incentive.

But the game has a problem at its core that no combination of plane and control scheme can fix: the controls aren't up to the task of letting you dodge bullets and kick ass, so there are too few bullets, and too little ass.
1942: First Strike
Reviewer photo
Lauren Schechtman | 22 July 2010
1942: First Strike is a competent top-down shooter, but indifferent controls and an almost horizontal difficult curve keep it from fully taking off
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