Game Review - by James Allen
Flight simulations have probably the most passionate following in the realm of computer entertainment. Their patrons expect nothing but the most accurate and realistic flight possible. This is not one of those games. Airfix Dogfighter depicts the battles of World War II model airplanes throughout a suburban dwelling. All of the missions use scaled versions of real aircraft used during period, taking place in such exotic areas as the bathroom and backyard. Airfix Dogfighter definitely does not attempt to be a realistic simulation: its simplistic flight model is tweaked to provide maximum enjoyment in dogfighting. Will Airfix Dogfighter down all the evil tyranny of the opposition, or just get sunk in the bathtub?
Airfix Dogfighter's missions take place in and around a house, complete with appropriate rooms and the like. This is just the start of the cartoonish nature which beams through the game. All of the rooms are given appropriate codenames (such as the Tee Pee Sector for the bathroom), and the twenty campaigns involve flying to remote locations and completing bombing runs, searching for blueprints, and the like. There are ten campaigns each for the Allies and Axis powers, which don't seem like much. However, the missions are so difficult for the beginner (and even experienced pilot), it takes quite a long time to complete them all. You are also given 12 planes to fly, including the P-51, Spitfire, A6M Zero, and Ju87 Stuka. There are some extras included, such as the house editor: any of the rooms can be modified, as to their color, and the location of the object scattered throughout the room. This editor is used primarily for multiplayer affairs. If you'd like, it is also possible to customize the decals on your planes with the paint room. As for multiplayer, you can engage in events over a LAN or TCP/IP connection, although there is no matching service available, which is quite popular these days. All of these extras are just trying to hide the fact that not many missions are included; this results in a rather short game, and experienced pilots will complete the game in no time at all.
The sound could use some work. The only sound effects that are included are gunfire and explosions of the planes (and the associated bing when you pick-up an object). There is absolutely no radio chatter (as you would expect in a flight simulator), and all the objectives are conveyed in text messages, rather than audio feedback. You miss quite a few important tidbits of information while in the heat of battle; an audio warning would serve as much better feedback. There isn't much to say about the sound in Airfix Dogfighter, because there isn't much sound at all.
Airfix Dogfighter plays very much like an arcade game. The flight model is very forgiving, as you can bounce off walls and other things without much consequence. The missions themselves are very original and strikingly fun, as you can destroy submarines in the bathtub, escort bombers to an outside airfield, and recover messages deep in enemy territory. All of the missions make sense: if World War II was being fought in your house, this is where the missions would take place. As for actually flying the missions, it is quite difficult. The AI is very difficult, especially for the beginner. The game throws you into the fire too early, especially since the early airplanes for both sides don't hold much of a chance against an onslaught of enemy fighters. The enemy planes seemingly appear out of nowhere, and are always behind you. There is no difficulty setting to alter their skills, either, which is a grave oversight. You also can't save games in progress, and the later missions are quite difficult and long, causing the pilot to start over from scratch after being so, so close. To assist you during a campaign, you can shatter vases and plates to reveal pick-ups and technology upgrades. Once you acquire ten tech levels, your weapons gain another stage of effectiveness, and this makes a huge difference. You can tell that if you are given many tech levels at the beginning of a mission, you are in deep trouble. Downing planes and destroying tanks also yields pick-ups, which include extra ammo, fuel, or repair. You must complete all of your objectives to finish a mission, even if they are considered "secondary." This jargon is mainly used to show which order you will complete them in, rather than importance: for example, the primary objective may be getting a key, while the secondary objective is destroying an enemy airfield. Now which do you think is more important? Sadly, this is about all the gameplay adds up to. You are sometimes given other airmen, who usually die quickly, but you're mostly on your own, facing insurmountable odds, and the result is that you'll have many redos to complete the missions.
The graphics are well done. The house that the game takes place in is just perfect, and could be a stand-in for any abode in the US. The rooms are quite detailed, and you really get the feeling that you are flying through a house: it becomes a part of the game, rather than an accessory to it. The plane models are also crisp and pleasant to look at. The whole graphical package has a polish, and looks as though much effort was put forth to make the house look as realistic for this game as possible. You might get used to the surrounding fairly quickly, since they look so natural: very nice indeed.
Airfix Dogfighter is a great idea that almost made it to perfection. With great graphics and a wonderful premise, the difficult AI, few missions, and lack of features quickly zaps any hopes you might have had of enjoying the game. How I wish this game was better and more user-friendly, but I guess thus is the fickle nature of model war.