Publisher: Destination Software
Developer: Skyworks Technologies
N Amer - 06/19/2007
B-17 Fortress in the Sky Review
The year is 1944. You’ve done your part in the Allies fight against Hitler’s Third Reich for 24 missions and you’re still around to tell about it. It’s this next one, though, that will decide your fate. Will you succeed and go home to your loved ones, or will you succumb to brain numbing monotony, not even bother and wonder how you even made it this far? Probably the latter because every mission you have been on has been just like the last.
In B-17 Fortress in the Sky you are charged with the task of manning and protecting the B-17 bomber dubbed “Lucky 25” as she flies through 25 nearly identical missions. I realize this game is supposed to be a “simulation” of sorts, but the level of repetition found here really hurts what could have been a decent game. There is zero variety in how each mission is played. Except for an increase in the number of enemy fighters as you progress, you could play any one of the game’s 25 missions and you will have played all the content the game has to offer.
Each mission has three main sections and progresses in the same way. First, with the Lucky 25 flying towards your bombing target out of your control, you must man the bomber’s guns to fend off enemy fighters as they approach. This is where most of your gameplay time is spent which is good because it’s the best part of the game by far. The touch screen is used for switching between the bomber’s eight guns. Simply tap whichever one you want to switch to and you’re there. Unfortunately, some guns cover basically the same area, so you will only use about half of them.
At a certain point in each mission the screen switches to an overhead view of the bomber where you move left and right to dodge flak from AA guns. This part of the game is not fun at all as there is no strategy involved in avoiding the artillery fire from below. A simple zigzag pattern is all that’s needed. You don’t even have to look at the screen! Anyway, once it ends you go back to shooting down fighters for a short while.
Finally, the screen switches again to a top-down view. This time, however, you are looking through the bomb sight. You are the bombardier, and it’s time for the bombing run. There are plenty of targets to destroy (though only one main target is required to complete the mission), and with infinite bombs you can go to town. To mix things up a bit, the bottom screen shows a flight path you must follow for your bombs to be accurate, so you have to watch both screens and adjust your altitude while you line up your drops. Unfortunately, like every other aspect of the game, this section is incredibly simple. You cannot take damage during the bomb run, and there is no real reward for bombing extra targets, so you could just set the DS down until you see the main target coming up, line up with the flight path and let ‘em fly. Afterwards, fend off more fighters for the last stretch home. Mission complete; rinse and repeat 24 times; roll credits.
Ok, you probably get my main point: this game does not offer very much. It feels like an incomplete game in almost every aspect. The visuals are bland. Guns look like guns and planes look like planes as much as they need to, but everything lacks a certain amount of detail, whether it’s the static background of the shooting section or the blurry 2-D cities of the bombing section.
Sound in B-17 is passable. Sound effects are actually pretty good, but music is almost non-existent. There is exactly one piece of music in the entire game, used for the title screen, menus, and credits. It is a decent piece of music but nothing spectacular. Missions have no music but would have benefited greatly from it if they had.
This is all a shame, really, because the core gameplay, simple as it is, is fun for a mission or two every now and then. The controls are responsive and easy to get used to, and it is satisfying to shoot down a string of fighters before they even get close to the Lucky 25. In fact, my initial reaction to B-17 was quite positive until it became clear that after the first mission I had experienced the whole game.
Review Scoring Details for B-17 Fortress in the Sky
Repetition plagues this game. It can be fun to play a mission or two but lack of variety causes boredom to set in quickly. The whole game can be finished in about 3 hours. There is nothing extra to unlock and no reason to replay besides a slightly harder difficulty.
The 2-D artwork is blurry and lacks a certain amount of detail. The 3-D graphics during the shooting section look fine, but again, lack detail.
Sound effects are decent and help you get into a shooting/bombing mood. The game’s one piece of music gets the job done as menu music, but the lack of music during missions is puzzling.
There are two difficulty levels, but overall the game is quite easy. Unless you really are not trying you probably will not fail any missions.
World War II games are far from original these days, but the “protect your bomber” gameplay stands apart from the standard WWII first-person shooter fare.
B-17 feels almost like a demo game. It really could have used more content and more variety in all aspects. If possible, some kind of multiplayer mode would have been nice as well.
B-17 has potentially good ideas but is sorely lacking in most aspects and feels like an incomplete game
Reviewer: Steve Mazzuca
Review Date: 07/11/2007