While the attack on Pearl Harbor is certainly set in our memories and history books, it’s the multiple contributions of pop culture that have continued to fuel the infamy. While films like Tora, Tora, Tora stressed accuracy and were generally well-received, others like The Final Countdown and Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor are painful reminders that bad things can happen with just about any intellectual property. Attack on Pearl Harbor, an arcade flight shooter developed by Legendo and published by Ascaron Entertainment may not be a virtual epic, but it does enough to keep from crashing in the sea.And while the game does have Pearl Harbor in its name, it’s not exactly the focal point of the game’s campaign. The fact is that Attack on Pearl Harbor only features the tropical locale in a single level for both the U.S. and Japanese campaigns. Pearl Harbor only serves as a backdrop to a basic tutorial level. The rest of the game, for both the U.S. and Japanese, features two campaigns that take players through the rise and defeat, respectively, of their chosen armies.Campaigns are played in a non-linear fashion with missions taking place through a vague calendar system. In “February 1942,” two or more missions are available to play. Whichever mission is not selected is saved for the next month on the calendar. Battles like Coral Sea, Wake Island and Leyte Gulf are doled out without regard to historical accuracy. This may disappoint players that love historical accuracy, but it’s a reminder of PH’s tongue-in-cheek approach to the game.But this system that places battles at alternate times is really a result of Pearl Harbor’s “game over strategy.” Certain missions require a certain type of aircraft—fighter, dive or torpedo bomber—and the player can only participate if he or she has the appropriate plane. Once the reserves of all three aircraft types are gone, it’s game over. But with the flexibility of players being able to choose their missions—and thus the type of aircraft that can be used—and the fact that new aircraft are earned by downing enemy fighters it’s almost impossible to fail a campaign. All out of fighter aircraft? No problem. Go sink a few IJN carriers to replenish your reserves.There’s a good amount of meat to the campaign in the variety of objectives. Protecting friendly bombers, destroying enemy fleets and pounding ground targets are only a fraction of what players experience. Secondary objectives given in specific missions also give some semblance of a free-roam mode since they are often located off the beaten path and can double a mission length. That said, there is a certain element of “wash, rinse and repeat.” While the game never becomes overbearingly tedious it does suffer from the occasional moment where players may think to themselves, “Gee, sinking ships again.”Other faults lay in the mission designs. The three difficulties: casual, normal or kamikaze only seem to vary the AI’s firing distance and the amount of enemy aircraft; none of which seems to make the game any harder. Some missions also seem to be cobbled together just to lengthen the campaign. In an extreme example of this, two missions are carbon copies of each other. Same missions. Same enemies. Same targets. The only visible difference is the addition of “second run” to the title. But even with missions like these, the single-player portion strains to last ten hours.From a gameplay perspective, it’s important to know that Pearl Harbor is an arcade flight shooter through and through. Takeoffs are managed by a simple press of the space-bar and flight is as easy as waving a hand. The mouse governs all movement and combat in the game. A slight-move of the mouse will perform a fluid turn/dive/climb. Weapons are controlled by the right and left mouse buttons, with each aircraft possessing a machine gun and alternate weapon, which varies on the type of aircraft. Combat is straightforward. Minor leading with machine guns is necessary and while rockets and torpedoes go where you want them, bombers do have a targeting reticle for accuracy’s sake. A camera that keeps the action in focus will always seem to be exactly where players want it to be. The “w” and “s” control speed but it’s rare that players will feel the need to. The only useful camera key is “q” and will allow players a view to see who’s on their six.If there are any complaints about the flight it’s that combat seems to have been oversimplified. Enemy planes, with few exceptions, seem complacent to fly around attacking a single target, regardless of what the player is doing. Sure they slightly weave and duck around machine gun fire but the AI doesn’t know any maneuvers or fancy tricks to gain the upper hand and go on the offensive. While flying bombers, players don’t even need to try very hard since the enemy AI will rarely fire while the player’s tail-gunner is peppering them with machine gun rounds.If someone ventures online they’ll find a receptive multiplayer system with easy player creation and a straightforward lobby system. What they won’t find are other players to fight. At the time of this review, it was impossible to find a multiplayer game with more than one other person.With respect to presentation, Pearl Harbor certainly isn’t breaking any new ground. While the aircraft are modeled nicely and have fairly detailed textures the surrounding environments seem bland. The island battlefields that prevail over most of the game are lightly sprinkled with trees and the same building models are used everywhere in the South-Pacific. When the houses look the same from Pearl Harbor to Iwo Jima, something’s not right. The lower quality on the ground pays off though when there’s no slowdown in the framerate. It’s not uncommon to have 20+ aircraft dog fighting and a slideshow is the last thing someone wants. The sound also walks the average path since there’s nothing too spectacular or horrible about it. Machine guns, bombs, explosions and other sound effects seem appropriate for the content with only slight over-acting from the voice artists. The background music is instantly forgettable but serves its purpose.Attack on Pearl Harbor certainly has its good points. The ease of use will entice players that may be scared by traditional combat flight sims. Players looking for an easy kill-fest will be entertained but players that prefer something with a little depth may want to avoid this flight path.
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.