The War In The Air

Underneath "Bomber Crew's" cartoon surface and simple-seeming design lurks the essence of strategic bombing in WWII
gamereleasedate: 
Saturday, October 28, 2017 - 3:00pm
"Hang on chaps!" he shouts, as he pitches the aircraft into a near straight nose-dive, directly into the firecracker exploding hell of the flack beneath us. Wallace (only at the communications station) continues to make his way towards the bombardier position, staggering from handhold to handhold of the now vertically-oriented fuselage.

 Versatility is the name of the game on a bomber; each crewmemebecrewmemeber has to be able to handle the complex and unique tasks associated with their primary role, while also being basically familiar with the core competencies associated with every other crewmember's job. The real genius of "Bomber Crew" is that it forces the player to deal with the actual crew instead of their posts; this brings to life the endless juggling act inherit to strategic bombing. It's a universe of multi-role sidemen in motion within a purely mechanical world, and here, finally, the player is in control of all of it. At once. No "tactical pause," no second chances. Here's a sample:

Farfan - my tail gunner - is hit and begins bleeding out. We are being strafed by 1 or 2 wings of bogeys that I haven't designated as targets because I've been otherwise engaged, ordering Wallace (our bombardier) to leave the ventral turret and return to his bomb-sights in the fore of the aircraft. He has to get there in time to open the doors, and sight our ground target before releasing his payload.

Simple enough, were it not for the flack; it began eating us alive 2 minutes earlier, forcing us to climb to mid altitude in order to keep our two remaining engines running. Engine No. 3 is being worked on by our engineer, Ms. Birt, whose currently out there on the wing like a barnstormer.

Our objective materializes in visual range, and as I tag it (which simultaneously designates it as a target, sets its location as a waypoint, and tells Captain Stevenson to change course accordingly) I realize that we are coming in too fast, and too high for Wallace to get a decent chance at the target, and I'm pretty sure we won't have enough spare fuel for more than just this one pass. Everything is refactored in that instant, and I know exactly what must be done.

With the dense plumes of flack blossoming just beneath us, I order the Birt back into the plane, and watch the agonizing slow-motion eternity (2 seconds) until her hand reaches the first rung of the external ladder. No time to wait for her to get to the top hatch, I quickly select the captain, hitting the "Emergency Dive" button on his panel.

"Hang on chaps!" he shouts, as he pitches the aircraft into a near straight nose-dive, directly into the firecracker exploding hell of the flack beneath us. Wallace (only at the communications station) continues to make his way towards the bombardier position, staggering from handhold to handhold of the now vertically-oriented fuselage. As the pilot performs this maneuver, I waste no time, selecting our radioman and activating his "Auto-Tag" ability, instantly target-designating all bandits in radar range so our gunners can keep them from blowing our wings off after we hit the target. Oblivious to the exploding, lawn-darted, black of night, strafing, screaming, fiery, hell-storm surrounding us, I pull Shaw (our deadliest top gunner) from their perch, and carefully select the med-kit from the tilt-a-whirl disorientation of the rear equipment rack.

I had planned to spend the invaluable 2 or 3 seconds that would be necessary to watch Shaw complete this order in the front of the plane, ordering the bomb doors open, but some shrapnel catches engine No. 4, which bursts into flame. I jump back to Brit, now at her station, and select the extinguishers from her panel, then select Wallace (now on the bomb sights in the nose of the plane), and open the bomb doors.

As the emergency dive concludes, I set the pilot's altitude to keep us there on the deck, and select Shaw (now with medkit) in the aft. Clicking on Farfan (70 seconds left before bleeding out) I order Shaw to revive him. Flashing to Wallace, I select the first bomb on the rack, and watch through his bomb site as the target scrolls in. I drop slightly off-target (the bomb doors are slow to open), but its a hit. No time to celebrate, though: I order him to close the doors and mount the nose turret.

As I re-man the gun turrets (which begin firing furiously at the bogeys swarming around us), and with one functional engine, the mission may be accomplished, but the hard part is still ahead. The pilot begins ascending to cloud-level, and I tag our next waypoint, turning back into the hell behind us. Now we just have to get back home.

The game is "Bomber Crew." Don't let its cartoon graphics and simple controls fool you: this is the WWII bomber experience you've been waiting for.

-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")