Developer: Backbone Entertainment
Release Date: July 23, 2008
1942: Joint Strike is a vertical shooter that perfectly reimagines the original 1942 shooter from 1984. Man, that's a lot of dates. For those of you not old enough to remember the original coin-op shooter, it was one of the best vertical shooters of its time. You piloted a World War II plane and were tasked with taking out enemy planes, tanks, and boats while avoiding the ongoing spray of bullets and bombs.
In that sense, there isn't much different with the premise of Joint Strike. What has happened, though, is the addition of a co-op mode, stunning graphics, and the choice of three different planes. It doesn't really affect the game other than giving you a few more options. One plane is faster, but has weaker shields; one plane is slower, but has more shields; and one plane is like porridge, and is just right. Regardless of which plane you choose, your mission is clear: Shoot everything.
There is something to be said about the cathartic effects of playing a vertical shooter. That's not to say there is no skill or cleverness involved, but it's unbelievably stress-relieving to repeatedly mash the A button to let loose an unlimited supply of ammo against every single flying, floating, or rolling enemy to send them crashing into a pile of fiery twisted metal.
Joint Strike has its share of power-ups that will augment your plane in different ways. Much like real life, shooting down a cluster of red planes will produce a floating block that yields a supply of different goodies. Some will augment your weapons, others will replenish health, and others give you a short burst of super powerful missiles that will destroy everything in their way. Good stuff.
The levels are just different enough that you feel a sense of progression, despite otherwise following a small handful of locations. You'll typically be flying over ocean waters, though you will also fly over enemy bases and see some earthy textures. But really, be ready to see a lot of water. The nice thing is how true to the original 1942 that Joint Strike stays; so many of the planes, tanks, and huge naval ships have the same feel as the old game, but with massively improved textures and explosions.
At the end of each level is a boss bottle. You almost couldn't have a game in the 1980s without there being a boss battle of some sorts, and the pseudo-remake 1942: Joint Strike holds true to that. You'll be taking your tiny-by-comparison plane against gravity-defying, screen-filling bosses with multiple turrets. Successfully beating the boss will award you with additional health and a stats screen to check your accuracy, enemy count, and similar stats.
There is no real music to speak of, but what do you want? You're in a plane mashing the A button and single-handedly shooting down the entire army, navy, and air force of the enemy! Be happy with that, and be happy that this time around, there is a co-op mode that works with two players locally or via an online XBLA connection. So many XBLA games fall short with forcing either localized play or online, so it's nice to see one that offers both in addition to the single-player missions.
1942: Joint Strike costs 800 Microsoft points ($10), which is the standard price nowadays. If you liked the original coin-op game or are a fan of scrolling shooters, Joint Strike should definitely be in your collection. The overall graphics and available options make this feel like a true sequel to the game (not like the actual, less-than-stellar sequel, 1943, which came out in 1987), and the ability to play co-op helps clinch this as one of the best modern vertical shooters available on the Xbox 360.
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