1942: Joint Strike Review

1942: Joint Strike Logo1942: Joint Strike is more of a sequel to than a remake of the seminal 1984 vertical scrolling shoot ‘em up. It retains the original title’s feel and alternate history WWII setting while incorporating features found in later games in the 194X series like a life bar, two player co-op play and the scoring and ranking system.

Developer Backbone Entertainment (Commando 3, Bomberman Live) has delivered a competent game that hardcore, old-school shooter fans will likely enjoy. Players brought up on newer games like Ikaruga or the recent spate of dual stick shooters like Super Stardust HD and Geometry Wars may be put off by some of the design choices made, putting Joint Strike squarely into “love it or hate it” territory. Read More...

Though some of the locales and vehicles evoke the look and feel of the real WWII, players will also encounter decidedly unreal lasers, hulking tanks and seemingly endless battleships as they make their way through the five stages found in 1942: Joint Strike.

There are three ships available to pilot; the well-rounded Lightning, the speedy Shinden and the Mosquito, a plane that affords players more health to tackle the game with. Each plane obviously has its own strengths and weaknesses and players should experiment with all three to find the one that most suits their style of play.

All of the planes utilize the same three weapons, the standard Machine Gun, the Spread Shot and the devastating Laser. As expected, the weapons can be powered up by collecting items. Screen clearing bombs can be collected. The titular Joint Strike is used when playing co-op and comes in three flavours. When playing solo, the Joint Strike button unleashes a barrage of missiles.

One of the boss encounters.

Joint Strike has four difficulty levels to choose from. The term difficulty is a little misleading however as the only thing that gets adjusted is the amount of lives that players start out with.  Other variables commonly adjusted in other shooters like the amount of damage you give to or receive from enemies and extra life awards are unaffected.

The lowest difficulty, Penguin will start you out with nine lives, while Wing King affords only one and poses quite a challenge for even the most veteran players.

Graphically, I found the game to be quite smooth overall thanks to anti-aliasing and some nice use of motion blur and depth of field effects. 1942: Joint Strike runs on a fully 3D engine and features some highly detailed backgrounds to fly over. Enemy vehicles are usually easy to distinguish and either shoot or avoid.

Where the look suffers most is the colour palette. It’s made up of mostly dull earth tones like green and brown. While the colours suit the WWII theme quite well, there is a real lack of any personality or “pop” going on here aside from a film reel effect used once in a while.  Even the enemy bullets look very subdued, especially compared to other shooters that commonly use bright pinks, blues or whites to signify incoming fire.

Opinions about 1942: Joint Strike will most likely be divided based on the gameplay. This is an old-school arcade game through and through. There are no unlockables to speak of, no saving between levels and no plane customization. Players even have to button mash their way to glory as the game has no autofire feature or option. Surprisingly not even a continue option is present, players will likely become very familiar with the first two or three levels as they try to memorize enemy and boss patterns.

A Joint Strike in action.

The title does have a healthy online community on PS3 though, providing both co-op partners and high score competition. A standard feature in modern games, the simple addition provides added value in an otherwise small title.

I really didn’t care much for the sound design in this game. The weapon sound effects were mixed far too loud by default, though they end up coming through as more grating than powerful.  The music has a string-heavy sound that was obviously aiming for Hollywood style flair. Unfortunately it ends up very forgettable even when it’s not drowned out by the sound effects.

Despite feeling almost archaic at times, I really did enjoy playing through 1942: Joint Strike.  Stripping away a lot of the flash and difficulty concessions found in newer shooters is something that will be appreciated and respected by old-school fans of the genre.  Unfortunately, things like not having autofire or a checkpoint system will chase away a lot of people as well, leaving the game’s audience likely defined by its age. A demo is available on both PlayStation Network and on Xbox Live for the sister 360 version.


+ Faithful to the original game
+ Fun co-op play both locally and online


- Bland look and sound
- No saving or continue options
- Some bosses get recycled in a short game


Game Forward score: 3/5

Brian J. Papineau > Game Forward


1942: Joint Strike (PSN) Quick Facts:

Genre: Vertical Scrolling Shoot ‘Em Up
Developer: Backbone Entertainment Emeryville
Publisher: Capcom Digital
Release Date: July 23, 2008
Price: $9.99 USD/CAD
ESRB Rating: E 10+ (Everyone 10 and up)