The flight-combat game presents a unique dilemma. As a WWII Aces historical game, it leaves something to be desired. As an arcade-style flight-combat shoot-’em-up, well, it also leaves something to be desired. It is a poorly designed game that falls far short of its potential— yet I couldn’t stop playing it.
WWII Aces features 70 missions based on actual aircraft engagements in the European theater, divided among the Royal Air Force, the Soviet air force, and the Luftwaffe. Each force offers four aircraft to choose from: a fighter, bomber, fighter-bomber, and an experimental aircraft. It’s up to the player to choose the plane that best fulfills the requirements of the mission: for example, when navigating the Finnish coast, a Soviet La 5 will provide better maneuverability and speed for weaving in and out of searchlights than the bulky Ilyushin DB-3.
With its historically modeled missions and aircraft, WWII Aces had the potential to be a great historical flight-combat game. But what it promises is too good to be true. The planes handle identically, and the game does not provide enough historical context to engage the player. The environments, though expansive, are bland and unimpressive; mission objectives are vague; and the game’s difficulty, even on the easy setting, tries the patience of even the most battle-hardened ace.
Despite these shortcomings, it’s hard to deny that WWII Aces is addictively fun to play due to the motion-sensing remote controllers of the Nintendo Wii, for which the game is formatted. The player holds the remote sideways, tilting it to control the movement of the aircraft. A flick of the remote allows the aircraft to perform maneuvers such as barrel rolls and inside loops. Another control scheme utilizes the Wii remote’s nunchuk controller attachment. In this configuration, the nunchuk functions as the plane’s control stick, while the remote itself controls the weapons. While these controls may take some getting used to, they make the planes very enjoyable to fly.
The game also features a co-op mode, where players can face off against one another to complete objectives. This mode chucks the historical element aside, focusing solely on the game’s surprisingly good arcade-style game play.
I must confess that I was all but ready to give up on WWII Aces after the first 30 minutes—but found myself continuing to play for hours afterward, thoroughly enjoying myself. Those looking for a hard-core history game may be turned off by its poor presentation, but gamers looking for a casual, lighthearted experience will enjoy the motion-sensing control schemes and arcade-style action.
Originally published in the March 2009 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.