Developer: Runner Duck
Publisher: Curve Digital
Release Date: 10 July 2018
Price: $14.99 / £11.99
Reviewed by Gary Gray
Bomber Crew takes squad management to the skies of World War Two with it's charming yet brutal gameplay. You're tasked with filling a Lancaster bomber with a hit team, kitting them out and arming your bomber, all the while managing your cash as you prepare to take flight.
Naming your crew and customising the way they look makes Bomber Crew's missions that little bit more personal, and coating your plane with custom colours and decals is a real treat.
Missions vary in difficulty and duration and it's up to you to decide on what challenges your tiny team will take on. You can take on harder missions for more cash, or smaller ones for an easier time albeit with a lower reward. Any cash you earn can be used to buy your outfit more equipment to help you through the more difficult challenges.
There's also a chance that a mission will feature an ace pilot. These are essentially the game's bosses, and can be extremely brutal yet incredibly satisfying and rewarding once you gun them down.
As you'd expect from the game's title, the vast majority of the game's missions comprise of bombing runs. There is however variety in the challenges in the form of dropping off supplies to stranded troops, or taking recon photos of enemy bases.
Each of your crew members have a main and secondary skill, such a pilot, gunner, engineer, bomber and so on. When a character is selected a window appears with a list of commands and info, depending on where they're located in the plane. This is how you command your crew to take on tasks. For example, the pilot will have commands such as 'take off' and 'raise landing gear', making sure that the wheels don't cause drag mid-flight. Bomber Crew is full of these little details to keep your mind racing and ensuring you've made all the right moves.
Putting crew in the right places at the right time is essential during missions, as every second counts. There is an option on the R button to slow down time for a short duration, but you'll find yourself hesitant to press it as there's a bonus if you don't. Gunners run out of ammo, electronic and hydraulic systems break, and fires may need putting out, resulting in some chaotic running about when the action gets heated.
Fire At Will
As a management game, you don't actually take control of the plane's guns. Instead you use the ZL button to place markers that your navigators then fly towards, or gunners aim their weapons at. This is a refreshing and clever way of changing up gameplay in a World War Two game. It takes a little getting used to the controls at first, and even after hours of practice they're still fiddly and unnatural at times, pulling you out of the action as you figure out what button you need to press.
There's a constant nervous feeling that Bomber Crew's most gripping moments invoke, as your crew scrambles around to hand each other ammo and heal downed crew members. Every 'ping' sound of a tiny bullet leaving a hole in the side of the armoured air craft is a constant reminder of the intense threat that the enemy pose. As the bullets fly more and more, the HD rumble alerts you when something is drastically wrong. The constant tiny feedback of bullets, followed by a big shunt of an engine being blown up, is brought to life incredibly well through the use of the JoyCon's force-feedback tech.
Completing each mission is extremely rewarding and addictive, however when things go wrong, there's a strong element of permadeath. When a crew member doesn't manage to make it back you'll have to replace them from a line up of fresh recruits and equip them from scratch. If they bail out with a parachute, the team member's survival skills - or a handy homing pigeon - can help that member make it back to base to fly again.
However, frustration can set in when you lose your entire plane to an explosion or a failed crash landing. This leads to you having to start again with an entirely new bomber and a whole new crew. When the difficultly ramps up, you'll find yourself grinding smaller missions to power up your crew and craft to lessen the risk of the harder missions.
Visuals are low poly and lack detail, but this actually gives Bomber Crew a deceptive charm that belies how brutal the game actually is. It's a style that personally I found myself really enjoying. Sound is on point too, as piercing bullets and perfect music creates a suspenseful atmosphere.
Bomber Crew is easily one of the greatest management games to grace the Nintendo Switch so far. Brutal and charming at the same time, it's a white-knuckle ride of a war sim, with a true feeling of loss when things go wrong. I found myself playing mission after mission with a genuine sense of concern for my crew on every flight. Where the controls can be finicky and a little confusing at times, Bomber Crew makes up for it in engaging gameplay and the way it builds a sense of attachment to your bomber and it's crew. HD rumble and a dusting of customisation really make Bomber Crew a stand out management simulator, with lots of content on offer, and even more optional DLC available too.
Pros & Cons
+ Gripping gameplay
+ Crew and plane customisation
+ HD rumble
- Steep difficulty curve
- Finicky controls
- Repetitive permadeath