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I fairly jumped at the chance to review Capcom Mobile’s 1942: First Strike, the iPhone debut of Capcom’s arcade classic. This was a game that helped define a genre, and I was eager to see it grace the touchscreen. Unfortunately, the game just did not live up to my expectations. It’s a decent-looking game, but 1942: First Strike’s low challenge level and poor controls really hamper it.
1942: First Strike is fun for the first few levels. The game looks decent, with clean, lightly cartoonish graphics and bright colors. There’s a dash of nostalgia here along with the simple fun of a combat shooter. It won’t strike you as terribly challenging or inventive, but you won’t find much to complain about. You’ll fly around, shooting enemies, dodging slow-moving projectiles, grabbing power-ups, and even fighting a beefy first boss. It’s about five minutes of fun.
Things quickly get dodgy right about the third level. Things like finesse and finer plane control become important, and the flaws with 1942: First Strike come out. The default accelerometer
controls simply are not up to the task. You swoop, swerve, and swing pretty easily, with just the lightest tilt; fine for free flying, but not for lining up shots or dodging between tightly spaced enemy fire.
Okay, no problem; Capcom provides adjustable controls. Which is great, but (1) the faux-plane dial interface is clunky, and (2) the settings are widely variable, so that a small change quickly pushes the controls from too loose to too sluggish. There’s got to be a sweet spot in there somewhere, but I was never satisfied with the controls.
If the accelerometer issue bugs you, there’s also a touch control, sliding your finger this way and that with the plane following your trail. But this is even worse than the accelerometer, with a jumpy, delayed reaction that will quickly get you killed (not to mention that your big ol’ thumb on the screen will hide enemies coming from behind).
I was able to play on once I got the controls to a fair level. What I got, after the nostalgia wore off, is a fairly pedestrian arcade game with some big control issues to work out. Fix the latter, and I’d enjoy the former more, though probably not enough to call 1942: First Strike a great game. It would be a good game, then; for now, it’s a good game with bad controls, making it, on the whole, a mediocre play experience.