At the very least, WWII Aces was released under Destineer's normal label and not its "Bold Games," which seems to give you the impression that the company took the development of this game a bit more seriously than the likes of the truly terrible British Motor Sports, Kawasaki Quad Bikes, and Orbs of Doom Wii titles. But while you can kind of see a solid game in WWII Aces, you have to really look at it through a thick layer of crumminess. It's an arcade shooter that's too frustrating for its own good.
WWII Aces apparently bases its level structure around several real-world British vs. German vs. Soviets aerial battles from World War II, but honestly the education level of this game is next to nil – unless you're a WWII historian you're never going to understand the missions in context because the developers barely try to present the historical elements outside of brief text – "take it to Wikipedia if you want to know more" seems to be the mantra here. The game at least tries to present WWII Aces with some sort of authority: it has an official-like "Wings Series" emblem on the cover that looks like it was ripped out of the History Channel. Oh, and there's a public domain black-and-white photo of guys in bomber jackets leaning up against a plane, so it must be authentic, right?
But honestly, this game is pure arcade style so authenticity is pretty much thrown out the window. That's a good thing since the game's focused on action instead of simulating the dozen different aircraft in the game, and that also means we're not spending half this review picking apart the fact that the Spitfire wasn't as fast or as maneuverable as it is in WWII Aces.
We appreciate the arcade focus because, done right, it's fun to unload a flurry of bullets into enemy planes and make them go "boom!" in a fiery explosion. The game's default control is Wii-mote exclusive held in the "classic orientation", and for a B-title the game has some nice motion-sensitive implementation. The game recognizes subtle and extreme tilting for the plane's steering, with the D-pad used for left/right rudder as well as digital throttle for speed. What doesn't work is the "flick" input for loops and barrel-rolls, since you'll more often accidentally pull off the wrong move in the heat of the battle.
The developer should have kept it simple with this control but they went a step too far with two other control inputs, both requiring the Nunchuk. Sorry, but even though it's hard to claim that Wii-mote tilting actually feels like real plane flying, it's a far better option than twisting a hockey puck with an analog stick on top. It's nice to have options, but the nunchuk control configurations just don't make the game any more fun than it tries to be. Which is to say, it's honestly not all that much fun.
Much of the problem lies from the fact that the designers fail to really wean players into the action. The first tutorial mission is fine to give players an idea of the motion control, but once that's over, the training wheels are off and the player's shoved down a cliff straight into a brick wall. Early missions are ruthless and unforgiving, thrusting players into situations that are confusingly constructed and brutal in difficulty. Players will find themselves with objectives that aren't very clear, and overwhelmed by enemy troops that'll easily turn the player's craft into exploding swiss cheese. And to add to the frustration, this is a one life deal – die at any time during a mission and it's over. Even though it may have an ounce of fun in its gameplay, WWII Aces has an absolutely terrible difficulty curve that'll turn off many gamers in the first hour.
The game has a cool "bullet time" option so that you can slow down the game world and "focus" on targeting enemies in a Matrix-like mode. As cool as it is, it kills the pacing of the game since you have absolutely no restrictions in using it. Because you'll do better by using the mode than not, you'll quickly realize you're playing about 90% of WWII Aces in super slow motion.
Stick with the game and you might be able to squeeze a little more enjoyment out of it, but you really have to struggle to like it. The game might not be a real looker in its visuals, but it does at least give off a nice satisfying "kablooey" when the enemy goes down. The developers clearly looked at Star Fox for inspiration as you'll see a lot of parallels in the gameplay – mostly in the quick-flick barrel rolling and loops to escape an enemy's gunsights. Also a nice addition is the two player splitscreen co-op mode where a friend can jump in at the start of a mission, but the pace and framerate takes a bit of a dive when the going gets rough.
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