Set during World War II, when the United States are abruptly drawn into the war following the attack on Pearl Harbour, you take the helm as one of two pilots that can be alternated in-game. Jack appears to be a Tuskegee Airman and his childhood friend, Amelia, is a member of the WASPS (Women Airforce Service Pilots). All other historical attempts at accuracy are a mixed bag as some are valid, though other areas either can be a little misrepresented. But if the Wolfenstein series is entertaining enough without providing an education in world history, Iron Wings has a chance.
It’s an arcade flight simulator (ish), but leaning heavily towards the arcade side of things with just a little more depth than a game you would play in an actual arcade (only in terms of length, however, not variety). Missions include dogfighting with airborne assailants, bombing and espionage with an on-board camera; however, most of the game is the same mission as the last, only with a few changes in scenery and planes. But if you’re looking for a bit of a no-brainer which borderlines on simplicity, then Iron Wings might be worth a further look.
When it comes to presentation, Iron Wings is excellent. It feels like an evolution of classic arcade games with cinematic cutscenes, but with just a few more bells and whistles to make it special. While the game never feels like a simulator, it’s not too arcade-like in that it’s a button-mashing affair which is over quickly. Dogfights in the game can be drawn out – mostly because of the accuracy. This is no reflection on the game, but the theme: being up on the skies in a seemingly sluggish behemoth (you’re going a lot faster than it appears) with a relatively small crosshair and moving targets is a challenge, but a justified one. Helpfully you can tail an enemy, and as long as your crosshairs remain on target, the perspective switches to an action camera with a magnified zoom. Your plane seemingly goes into autopilot, allowing you to concentrate on shooting.
There are two views in the game; third-person and first-person. The former appears to be the default and is the best overall setup to see your environments and where the attack waves are coming from. In contrast, the first-person view is perfect for dogfights when you’re concentrating on individual targets. Iron Wings uses a sort of simplified tracer-like filter that disguises any flaws in the graphics. While this won’t be winning any awards for cutting-edge presentation, I was impressed with it on the Switch, but I would expect something a little more polished if playing on a PS4 or PC.
There’s no hiding that wars are costly events, and for the squadron to succeed they need money. During the opening tutorials, you’re expected to put on a show for the spectators of New York to help raise funds for the war efforts. By completing objectives, this pushes the story forward, but also earns money so you can unlock new planes, livery and weapons – but there are also side quests as well for a bonus.
Side quests are relatively simple, like taking out additional targets or locating radio frequencies and listening in. This is an interesting mechanic as it’s a fun one – both as an idea and in the application. By holding down the X button, you can lock on points of interest and tune into their radio frequencies to listen in on broadcasts. At first, this was a tricky process. Playing in handheld mode, I was using the left stick to fly, holding X to focus on a broadcast and rotating the right stick to tune into the transmission. Doing so many things with accuracy and avoiding being hit or crashing was hard work until I realised that holding the X button and letting go will keep the lock in place, making flight effortless. The tuning element was still a pain, however, as if interrupted. You find the frequency again, and it starts from the beginning. While these broadcasts are relatively short, when multitasking, they can feel like a long time.
As you progress, there are more options available and you get to fly in a range of different planes, each with a different feel to them. The main modes being the campaign, and free flight (which is a little redundant as not much to do other than getting screen grabs, if that’s your thing). Arcade mode is a quick-fire skirmish, which you’d expect to play in the arcades with the relevant timers etc. To add to the urgency. Timers are in some missions – while they add to the urgency, it dampens the experience as some controls are fiddly. Notably the on-board camera. Bearing in mind the era, these aeroplanes didn’t have the versatility of a modern-day jet.
The attention to detail with accelerating and decelerating might be a bit too realistic, as if you temporarily speed up and down, your engine will stall, causing you to hit the deck. At higher altitudes, you can recover control, but if you slow down before engaging a ground target, then speed up again? Crash! Deaths happened more frequently than I had hoped. While I expected this from a flight game, some multitasking, i.e. when locked onto a target with the camera looking behind, means a collision is inevitable – especially in the built-up areas.
Iron Wings is ideal on the Switch – it doesn’t feel limited with either the graphics or playing environments. Still, it gets repetitive with similar missions and frustrating collision when you least want it. I didn’t have a problem with the acting in the game, though a little generic and corny, but I suggest turning off the subtitles as they’re riddled with spelling mistakes and distracting.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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Iron Wings Review
Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 6/10
Iron Wings is a good companion for your Switch, with the lack of flight games currently available. The presentation is great, with a few technical flaws here and there that can be dismissed with the gameplay. Repetitive but an enjoyable break from other genres.
- Great presentation.
- Arcade controls are easy to pull off.
- New aircraft and weapons to unlock.
- Repetitive gameplay.
- Crash collisions are frustrating.
- Dialogue a little generic in places.