IGN Review of Twin Strike: Operation Thunder
For some gamers, merely uttering the words "budget" and "title" in the same sentence is enough to set off a violent chemical reaction within the brain. Their skin boils, their eyes burn and sometimes – just sometimes – their head explodes. If this sounds at all familiar to you, brace yourself for what I'm about to say. Twin Strike: Operation Thunder is a budget title. Those of you with your heads still firmly intact will be happy to know that Twin Strike is actually a relatively decent game, providing a cheap, enjoyable experience for less than half the price of its competitors.
Twin Strike is a helicopter combat title in the vein of the old Electronic Arts Strike series. Players take on the role of two pilots (hence the "twin" part of the name) as they attempt to take down a shadowy enemy organization across twenty distinct missions, each with numerous objectives and enemies. There's a story in there if you have the patience to dig deep enough, but the narrative you're rewarded with isn't really worth the effort. There's a romance subplot between the protagonist James and his superior officer Colonel Sanders (yes, you read that correctly) and something about a "secret unknown military weapon," but in the end the story provides nothing more than context for the missions themselves.
As mentioned earlier, the game derives its title from the fact that you'll be controlling two helicopters during each mission, switching between them on the fly depending on the needs of each encounter. There's a "fighter" unit and a "transport" unit, but it all basically boils down to the fact that one flies fast and the other can take more damage. There are other subtle differences – the fighter helicopter has heat-seeking air-to-air missiles and the transport chopper can pick up weapon and health supplies, for example – but on any given mission I found that the other helicopter was used primarily as a second life bar.
Twin Strike provides players with two different control schemes, both in the "normal" and "advanced" flavors. The normal setting functions using only the Wii Remote, while the advanced setting allows users to attach the nunchuk to control their speed and on-board weapons. Precision flight is difficult to achieve, but luckily most missions throughout the game's campaign take this control deficiency into account by giving players forgiving, open environments to navigate. Others, however, force you to fly at high speeds through canyons with rocky walls that spell instant death, where one wrong flick of the nunchuk means mission failure. This issue won't completely ruin your experience by any means, but it's a strange choice for an otherwise casual, arcade-style action game.
Both of the control styles work equally well in flight mode, but neither hold up very effectively once it's time to take on the game's numerous enemies. To be fair, the advanced control scheme allows players to activate a much-appreciated "targeting mode" by holding down the B-button, bringing the helicopter to an abrupt halt in order to gun down targets more efficiently.
Twin Strike's enemies can easily be sorted into one of two distinct categories, both of which can become a tad obnoxious to combat as the game goes on. Battles with fellow air-borne enemies are awkward due to the game's slightly wonky combat controls. You'll constantly be spinning your helicopter around in circles, rushing to get your cursor over the enemy before they fly past you yet again, dragging these skirmishes out much longer than is absolutely necessary. The other enemies you'll face are ground-based units that serve mainly as cannon fodder and glorified target practice. Most are only equipped with wimpy machine guns, so it's a completely valid strategy to just hover above them and hold down the fire button until they explode. The best missions juggle the two enemy types so you're constantly on your toes, but there are others that force too much of one type on you, making for an ultimately underwhelming combat experience.
The graphics in the game are serviceable but largely unremarkable, par for the course for Twin Strike's budget title trappings. The helicopters are well rendered and the landscapes look decent from fair away, but fly in low for an attack and you're bound to notice the cardboard cutout trees that litter the environment. The game's narrative scenes are likewise presented using 2D, anime-style generic talking heads. There's absolutely no animation to the characters or even any variation in their expressions, but the poorly written and hastily edited dialogue will have you skipping these brief conversations anyway.
The campaign mode spans 20 missions that will likely take gamers around two to three hours to play through in their entirety. Twin Strike also offers the ability to replay any of these missions in its arcade mode, but beyond that and the requisite flight training, there's really nothing else here for players to experience. The game doesn't even offer any sort of online or offline multiplayer mode, a huge strike against the lasting appeal of a title such as this. This is one of the few truly unforgivable omissions within Twin Strike, marring an otherwise decent budget-priced Wii title.
©2008-11-07, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved