Xbox Live Arcade is having a hell of a good time lately with a lot of really quality titles being released over the past few weeks. The newest addition to the list is the classic 2D shooter 1942: Joint Strike.
This is not just a basic port however, oh no, this version has been pimped out with a fresh coat of paint.
It seems to play identically to the original arcade game (at least as far as I can remember, I can't say I've played it in quite a few years). You start off by choosing which plane you want to pilot, there are three to choose from with various amounts of health, fire power and speed. So there is a bit of strategy to which plane you will go with. If you are playing two-player co-op (either on one machine or via Xbox Live) you also get to choose a special co-op power to use.
Visually the game looks wonderful. The environments you get to play in and enemies you fight all look great with lots of neat little details and variety. Equally impressive are the visual effects of certain powers and attacks (both yours and some of your enemies). There are three different types of weapon upgrades that will occasionally float around. The options here are weak but more widespread bullets, an almost thick wall of powerful bullets or thin, yet powerful, lasers. Each of these upgrades has two levels that increase the spread of fire. The downside is if you accidentally pick up the weapon bonus when it's a different type to what you currently have equipped, you loose what you have and start at level one of whatever you just picked up. You also have a few "kill everything" bombs that you can drop when things get a bit too overwhelming.
The sound of the battle as well as the planes is crisp, and fits perfectly with the game. The music can really heighten the tension, especially during the boss fights.
The boss fights, these are a blast! They are very challenging (as any decent boss fight should be) but not impossible. They simply test your skill in order to overcome then. You do get quite a few lives in each game plus a reasonable amount of health per life. Only downside I've noticed is I cannot find a way to continue a game from a certain stage and have been forced to start at the first stage every time.
I'm not actually sure how many levels there are because to be honest I haven't managed to finish it yet (its hard, ok? Sure, easier than some other 2D shooters but still, they've never been my strongest skill!). The trend I have noticed with progressing levels is that not only do enemies become more varied and tougher, but there is also an increase in tougher yet less mobile ground troops (tanks, turrets etc).
The controls are smooth and easy, as you would expect. 1942 is another fine example of how a classic game should be brought to XBLA. It looks great and plays great (especially with a friend). It does a fantastic job of being familiar (and nostalgic), yet somehow feel new at the same time. For 800 Microsoft Points this is definitely a good choice to add to your XBLA library. Speaking of points, the main aim of the game is all about getting lots of them; some enemies even drop medals you can pick up for extra points (it's all about the high score baby!).
I definitely intend of spending more time playing this with my friends and seeing how far I can get and trying to get myself higher on that scoreboard over Xbox Live. Years ago, you could only show off your high scores to anyone visiting your local arcade, but now… the world! (Well Xbox Live anyway)
Oh how far our egos have come.