Bomber Crew Review
Bomber Crew is not so much a bomber sim as it is a management sim. You'll micro-manage the flight crew of a World War II British bomber throughout its mission from takeoff to landing. While you won't actively fly the bomber, you will direct the various specialists on your crew to do so. For example, you'll tell the pilot to take-off and then to retract the landing gear once in flight, and you'll use the navigator to set the plane's heading to a waypoint. Combat is handled in a similar manner. You direct gunners to fire by tagging enemy fighters, and you'll need to command the bombardier to open the bay doors, select a rack of bombs, and then drop the payload when you sight the target below. You'll also be in charge of in-flight maintenance and logistics, directing gunners to restock their ammunition from the plane's ammo locker, directing a crewman to leave their station to provide medical aid to an injured crewmate, and sending the mechanic to deal with battle damage and try to keep the plane aloft.
Most of this is accomplished using a cutaway side view of the bomber. You'll select a crew member and a context-sensitive menu will appear with the commands available for that crew member. This is where Bomber Crew's origin as a PC game becomes very obvious. The menus are set up for mouse control and are awkward to navigate with the controllers. This issue could have been alleviated somewhat by supporting the Switch's touchscreen in portable mode, but the game doesn't support touch commands. This isn't much of an issue when you're just starting a mission, but in the middle of a bombing run with enemy fighters surrounding you, parts of your bomber on fire, and the target rapidly approaching below, losing time fumbling with the interface can cost you precious moments and put the mission in jeopardy.
Some tasks such as tagging targets, waypoints, and enemy planes are done from an external 3D view of your bomber. You'll need to move a circular cursor around the screen as you rotate your view of the bomber to find and tag all of these various things, a task more naturally suited to controllers and not nearly as tricky to navigate as the in-bomber menu system. You'll need to return to this view at regular intervals both as events happen during a mission and as a necessary aspect of navigation. Your bomber will have a tendency to drift off course if you don't monitor its flight periodically.
Gameplay while on a bombing mission switches back and forth between fun and frantic, at least on the easier missions. It's fun to cycle through the various specialists to keep your bomber flying over enemy territory, but some of the things that you have to micromanage cause things to break down when the going gets tougher. One of the biggest problems is that to bomb a target you need to carefully watch for the target to appear in your bomb sights. If you jump away to check on the other crew, you can easily miss the target and be forced to have the navigator try to bring you around again. Stick to the sight and after you drop your bombs you may return to the bomber cutaway view to see your plane on fire and several of your crew members dead. Things can very quickly turn from running smoothly to a complete cluster-cuss, so this is definitely not the game for those looking for a relaxing gaming session or high-stress individuals.
Should you survive the mission, your crew will gain experience and you'll earn cash to spend on upgrades for your plane. These upgrades are a necessity to survive the more difficult missions as you can add new turrets, armor, and the like to your aircraft. You can also upgrade the equipment for your crew to enhance their capabilities or survivability, such as giving them flak jackets to improve their chances of survival. Different items have bonuses in some categories but may not be so good in others, so there's some tactical choices to make when equipping your crew. Crew experience will allow your crew members to increase in level and learn new skills. These skills will help you run things more efficiently
when on a mission or provide bonuses to your crew members' skills or survivability. Steady progression is an absolute requirement for success in the more difficult missions, and part of the challenge to the game is selecting survivable missions and learning when to abort and run away to fight another day. If you aren't careful and you lose crew members or your plane, then you'll have to recruit new replacement crew or start over with a new plane. The game takes a rogue-like approach to battles, and dead crew members will be dead and gone and you'll have to bring a new greenhorn up to speed which may mean grinding through a few easier missions.
Bomber Crew is certainly a novel game - there's really nothing like it available on the Switch. It's a challenging game, both in a good way and in a bad way. I think that if some of the more basic tasks were automated there still would be plenty of challenge to keeping your bomber airborne. For instance, the gunners really should be able to reload their weapons while you're concentrating on the bomb sight or putting out an engine fire. Bomber Crew isn't for everyone, as I noted it's not for the easily frustrated, but if you're willing to deal with its quirks, interface issues, and a few questionable design choices, there's a unique and enjoyable rogue-like bomber game at Bomber Crew's core. The game seems to be suited best for its PC origins, so if you have a Steam account consider getting the game there before going for the Switch version.
Final Rating: 76% - Bomber Crew gives you an appreciation for how hard things were for the real bomber crews.