Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII (2007)
Hi there, Nate again with another video game review. I know, I know, I know, you hate these, but there's nothing wrong with expanding your interests a bit, I promise I'll get back to crappy movies again soon. But for today we'll be looking at the laughably named Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII, a cheap and dirty WWII flying combat game for the Wii that I paid a whopping 9 bucks for on eBay. In the end, that's about the right price point for this one.
Much like WWII Aces, in this game you fight/fly/die your way through all the major chapter headings of World War Deuce, blasting through Europe's heartache in 1939 all the way to Berlin's destruction in 1945. This time, however, you get a detour through the Pacific Theater, from the treachery of Pearl Harbor to a vague point somewhere in the Island Campaign in 1944. Along the way you get to see such exotic locales as Norwegian fjords and fetid Guadalcanal jungles and get the pleasure of slaughtering German and Japanese soldiers with equal vigor. You only get to play as an American pilot in this game, which is odd as it was made by Eastern Europeans, and there are no Rooskies.
Yep, stole screencaps from Google Image Search, bite me.
The learning curve is shallow, but the game does take a considerable amount of practice and skill to master, and there are precious few missions where you feel totally at ease enough to relax. There's always an enemy gunning for you and the AI is pretty brutal at times. There's a constant push forward to reach checkpoints and complete objectives, and rarely does it seem too easy (my kind of game).
While some of the missions are pretty dull and forgettable, a few of the later ones are maddeningly difficult, especially after you lose the ability to repair your plane on-the-fly, but at least you have a chance to win them eventually. Dueling over Paris and Berlin are bloody affairs and you will be shot down repeatedly before you are able to beat the levels, usually with a second to spare on the timer and flame and smoke gushing from your shot-to-pieces fighter that's barely hanging on. Stressful times but pretty rewarding once you win. Amazing the amount of armpit sweat a Wii game can produce.
You can never stop moving.
There are other crackin' excellent missions throughout, which remain pretty fun even after replaying them dozens of times. I'm especially fond of the Rabaul Raid and the early Dunquerkue Covering Missions, those are all a blast. Generally speaking the air-to-air missions are better than the ground-attack ones, because the Wii motion controls lend themselves well to jinking and rolling around in the air versus straight-and-level bombing runs.
Explodey is good.
Speaking of the Wii controls, they can be a bitch to master. The planes in this game handle and fly kinda-sorta-ish similar to in the real world, which means that you'll be cussing at how slowly some of the planes turn and how roll rates are measured in spittle-fueled raging as, no matter how vigorously you wave your Wiimote around like a madman, you just can't seem to shake that Oscar that keeps punching holes in your wings. I tried all the various combinations of Wiimote and Nunchuk and all are equally challenging (but in a good way?).
Best played standing up.
The main gripe I have with this game is the mission timer, that arbitrary and unstoppable countdown ticking down in the corner of the screen. It surely does add a level of realistic tension to many missions, often you'll complete that last objective with just seconds to spare and it's a definite fist-pumping thrill. But it doesn't hardly give you any time at all to just fly around and check out the scenery of the level, maybe spend some time dogfighting the randomly-generated background enemies or just seeing if you can blow up every building on the map. Most of the levels are very detailed and large, but you rarely have time to see anything other than your gunsites before the timer runs out and the mission ends. And that's a shame because the developers really dropped some money on the terrain features (or, more likely, stole the digital models from some other game studio...) and it would be nice to be able to explore them more.
Hours of fun.
Other annoyances include the couple of near-impossible-to-beat missions that require you to cheat code through them. Worst is the one where you have to zig-zag through an icy fjord for 5 eternal minutes, a feat of thumb/eye coordination that escapes me completely. After about 20 failed attempts to get though the course, I just gave up and googled some cheat codes to bypass it altogether. There's also a useless B-17 bomber mission that you can safely skip, as well as a frustrating no-guns run through a sandstorm in a recon plane which just makes me want to stab to death anyone involved in its design. But, man, that fjord mission is the real shit.
Once you get all the way through the game (or cheat code it) and have all the planes unlocked, you can go back and play all the missions again with the plane of your choice. I can honestly say that for pure murdering fun of everything in the sky/ground/water, you can't do much better than the Dora FW-190, though the Seafire and even the vanilla P-51D are pretty tough to beat. It's also fun to try the harder missions with a starter biplane or a lumbering bomber, just to see how many times you can get your ass shot down before you get angry and switch to the Tempest.
The early Hurri is a sad bullet sponge.
All in all, Blazing Angels was worth the time and money spent on it (neither that much).
Written in July 2016 by Nathan Decker.
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