May 26, 2010

Winds of Steel

The state of Android gaming is really starting to improve. No longer are all of my Android games just quick flirts with entertainment that might repeat themselves with harder levels and little more. There are many examples of this and Winds of Steel is among them. WoS is a World War II aerial combat game that is very nicely done. The game loads with some nifty forties style music complete with static interference just like old time radio. You'll be greeted with a menu allowing you to select campaign play, instant action, or options. Options lets you adjust things such as skill level (there are three of them) and whether or not to enable sound and force feedback (vibration). Absent is any real help and I'm bothered by that trend as I don't find trying to figure out the game and its limitations very enjoyable.

Choose 'Instant Action' and you'll be able to select such modes of play as a simple dog fight, a bombing run, ...etc. I tried the dog fight mode first. Steering is done via tilt (as it should be) and works well. Occasionally the game might skip a few frames and I'm curious how well it runs on phones with the faster snapdragon processor, but no big deal. Your plane has two modes of firing: machine guns and bombs and they are toggled with a touch screen button on the lower right. In the screen shot you can see bombing mode is enabled, but for dog fights we can leave the machine guns on. Mysteriously absent from the screen shot (taken from the developer's web site) is the fire button which is above the toggle button about half way up the screen. Tap it for a burst of machine gun fire. As you pilot your plane a red triangle will point you in the direction of the currently selected target (and I don't know if I can change to a different target or not... I sure couldn't see how) to pursue. Line the enemy up in your crosshairs and fire. As your plane or your enemies plane takes on damage it will start to smoke, burn, and eventually crash.

The graphics are very nice with nice puffy clouds and good detail on the planes and ships. The hum of the plane's engine is well done and the vibration has a pretty good feel of a plane's propeller whirring away. The controls are smooth with one exception... I found the fire button a little on the small side of things. Often when focusing on the action my guns would not fire as my thumb would slide ever so slightly off of the fire button. As there's nothing else there (i.e. no opportunity for ambiguity for what my thumb touch was trying to do) I wish they'd have given some tolerance of error... that would have improved my game play experience substantially.

I then tried the Naval Battle mode after getting the hang of things and blowing several enemy planes out of the sky. The Naval Battle is harder so say the least... and all of this is on rookie mode so far. First, I had to figure out what to do... and living in the USA I immediately went after the Japanese ships and planes. Wrongo! Admittedly if I had paid attention to the graphics on the wings of my plane it would have been obviously that I was a Japanese pilot. Even more impressive was that I could clearly see the US flag on the ships. Anyhow, once I figured out my role I then realized that I needed to focus on the targets the game selects for me and avoid the flak from the enemy ships (and there's a lot to avoid). After several tries I was finally able to knock out the American Air Force (thus defending my fleet) and then blow away the enemy battleship. Mission accomplished.

Other minor issues with the game include exiting to a screen displaying my score while force feedback whirrs away (that can't be good for battery life) and the lack of any altimeter such that I have to rely solely on visuals to avoid getting too close to the ground.

I won't continue with the same level of detail, but the game has a couple other instant action modes of play and a whole slew of campaigns such as Pearl Harbor. There's a lot to this one and it's only 3 euros (or about $4 with the recent fall of the euro to the dollar). I'd really like the see the fire button issue addressed, but beyond that any criticisms I have are on the petty side. Great game and great fun! 4.5/5 stars.

1 comment:

  1. I have this game on my HTC Desire - the trackpad (/trackball) button is used for fire instead, which is maybe why it isn't on the screenshots.