B-17: Fortress in the Sky Review

I'm sure that some people will buy B-17: Fortress in the Sky based simply on its packaging and subject matter. Big mistake. While being able to take command of a B-17 bomber and man any of its stations has a strong allure, the reality is that this game is merely a collection of three different mini games, none of which is very good.

Each of the game's 25 missions begins with a briefing screen that shows you your flight plan and target. This briefing is pretty much pointless, though, since every mission plays out in the exact same way. You play the gunner, flak, and bombing mini games in the exact same order each time out, making one mission virtually indistinguishable from the next.

The gunner mini game is the only one of the three repeated during a mission, occurring three times sandwiched around the other two mini games. During this portion of the mission your B-17 is attacked by German fighters and you must hop between the gun stations to defend your Flying Fortress. The bottom screen shows a side view of your B-17 with the gun stations highlighted and you can switch between the guns by tapping on the gun that you want to take over. The waist guns are useless as the game makes it impossible to easily distinguish the right gun from the left and their range of motion is very limited. You'll probably just stick to the front, tail, top, and belly turrets. You'll hear your fellow crew members call out enemy sightings for you which works well enough when the enemy planes come from 12 or 6 o'clock, but not when they come from any other direction. There's no way to tell which way you are facing when you are in the belly or top turret, and this disorientation is made worse by the fact that there are no other planes in the sky outside of the one attacking you nor distinguishing features in the clouds to help orient you to your facing. When you're manning the correct gun and facing the right way, the enemy fighter appears as a blobby black line that is impossible to hit until it is right on top of you. When you do score a kill you're rewarded with a highly pixilated explosion that causes the enemy plane to instantly drop like a rock.

The flak mini game is so bad that it should never have made it into the game. You look down on your B-17 from above and are supposed to move it back and forth to dodge the black puffs of smoke from the flak. Even ignoring the facts that B-17's could make fast, sharp turns about as easily as a hippo on ice skates and that historically the planes flew on a straight and deliberate path during flak barrages, this mini game is lame, lame, lame. The B-17 takes up most of the field of view, so there's not all that much room to maneuver. Even if there was room to really move around it wouldn't matter since the flak explodes on top of you at random and there's no way to anticipate where it will appear.

The bombing sequence doesn't fair much better. You're given a view through your bombsite at the pixilated ground below, and the bottom screen shows you how far you've progressed over the target area and lets you control your relative altitude. Since there's no reason to maintain a high altitude and you have an unlimited supply of bombs, you'll soon figure out that all you need to do is drop low and unleash a couple thousand bombs while jerking left and right.

It's hard to imagine anyone wanting to play the same three lame mini games over and over again through 25 missions, or even for more than three missions for that matter. Do yourself a favor and don't enlist in this war.

In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 30%. The biggest bomb in B-17: Fortress in the Sky is the game itself.


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