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Old 10-24-2011, 06:33 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Retronauts: Kicking Axis with B-17 Bomber

I was originally going to discuss video game voice synthesis in today's article' and I really will someday, I promise! However, after I fired up B-17 Bomber to do research on the Intellivision voice module, I wanted to write about the game a lot more than the accessory. It's rare for a video game to not only justify the cost of a peripheral, but define the experience of using it, and the Intellivoice and B-17 Bomber represent that perfect symbiosis between software and hardware. Although the game will technically work on a barebones Intellivision, the voice module adds so much to the experience that you could hardly imagine playing it without one. Conversely, while there were five games released for the Intellivoice, B-17 Bomber is the only one that made a profound impact on gamers and the industry at large. Ask the average Intellivision fan about the others, and they're likely to respond, 'Wait, there were other Intellivoice games?'

As the name suggests, B-17 Bomber is a combat-focused flight simulator, with the player flying into Nazi-occupied Germany to dump a payload of bombs on factories, airports, and other high-value targets. While on this mission, you'll be accompanied by a chatty co-pilot, who sounds like Gomer Pyle stuffed into a Speak ‘n Spell. He's not the sharpest needle on your instrument panel, but you'll be happy he's around when the Luftwaffe swarm your plane and you need to know which of the bomber's four gun stations to man. On the other hand, you'll be less tolerant of your sidekick when you're nearly out of fuel and his screams of 'Mayday, mayday!' drown out information you could actually use while limping back to home base.

Like a lot of other Intellivision titles, B-17 Bomber is incredibly complex for its age. While it's not as intimidating as a 'real' flight simulator, there's still a lot for players to juggle, from the cockpit to the four gunpods to the bomb bay. Also, resources are finite, so you can't waste gunfire or rain bombs down on Deutschland just to watch them explode. You can only carry so many in a bombing run' each of these not-so-little boys are a thousand pounds each! Yes, the game keeps track of this stuff. This also means you'll frequently be returning to Britain for supplies, stretching out the length of each mission. A B-17 Bomber session could potentially last for hours in the hands of a skilled player' which is kind of a problem, since the average Intellivision burns to the touch after you've played it for twenty minutes. My kingdom for a save feature!

Actually, B-17 Bomber could benefit from a lot of the features we take for granted in today's flight sims. The graphics in particular are simple to the extreme, with flat blue and green shapes sandwiched together to form a horizon. It's a little jarring after you've seen the nearly photorealistic scenery in, say, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. or one of the later Ace Combat titles. Still, there's something captivating about this game that no flight simulator since has been able to reproduce. Thirty years after its first flight, this old bomber's still not ready for retirement.



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