Bomber Crew Review

Richard Walker

Remember the movie Memphis Belle? Bomber Crew is essentially a video game version of that film but without Matthew Modine, Harry Connick Jr. and the rest of the gang. Placed in charge of a Lancaster bomber-alike plane on a series of treacherous missions during World War II, it falls to you to manage every facet of the mission, from navigating your way to each objective then back again safely to base, handling repairs and staving off enemy fighters looking to shred your plane to ribbons with machine gun fire.

Initially, Bomber Crew seems incredibly fiddly, apparently better suited to more direct, intuitive touchscreen controls, but once the tutorial has slowly and gently eased you in, you'll soon wrap your head around what at first appears to be a needlessly convoluted control system. From recruiting a full complement of crew members to learning how to manage repairs, take recon photographs, engage enemy fighters, and (of course) drop bombs, Bomber Crew can seem a bit much.

Once you've left the tarmac and you're airborne, a cross-section view of your plane and zoomed-out exterior view is easily toggled at the touch of a button, and from this former perspective you're able to switch between individual squad members and assign them to different tasks. That's just about the crux of Bomber Crew, but each mission has its own set of demands and objectives to carry out, and if you want to earn bonus cash to afford better upgrades for your aircraft, you'll want to take some intel snaps and bring them home too.

Preparation before each mission proves vital, the briefing you're given offering clues as to what you'll be up against, be it squadrons of enemy fighters, bombing targets on the ground or an enemy ace pilot wreaking havoc amid the clouds. As such, there's a whole stack of customisation options you can purchase with the cash rewards you're given after each successful mission, enabling you to either make your plane more nimble and lightweight, or heavily armoured to the hilt to better protect your crew.

Gun turrets can be bolstered with bigger cannons and ammo belts that negate the need to keep running off to grab more bullets, engines can be augmented to allow your plane to carry more weight, while countermeasures like engine extinguishers enable you to put out fires without sending your engineer out onto the wing or having your pilot perform an emergency nosedive. Incidentally, don't take an evasive manoeuvre when your engineer is out on the wing performing repairs. They'll fly off and die.

Permadeath means you'll want to look after each and every one of your crew, and as such, you can supply your plane with medikits, fire extinguishers and parachutes to keep them safe, or a dinghy and homing pigeon in the event that you all have to bail out. Your plane too becomes a character in and of itself, the time you'll sink into customising it and building its resilience meaning that when it does get shot down or crash, your heart will sink.

Gearing up your crew is also important, unless you want a plane full of dead people. As you progress, you'll unlock better equipment, like toughened oxygen supplies, leather gloves, boots, heavier flak vests, better helmets and such. Every mission brings its own challenges, but before each one you can weigh up the duration against the level of risk, and then prepare accordingly. Missions can get a mite repetitive, however, consisting of bombing submarines and various enemy facilities, before engaging some fighters, taking an optional recon snap for some extra cash and then cruising back to base.

There is additional variety in certain missions where you're given new equipment, like a bouncing dambuster bomb, or you have to rescue crew members, spot spitfire pilots in the sea, and so on. However, the structure of the majority of Bomber Crew's missions are much the same, even if things don't always unfold in the same way each time. As your crew level up, however, you can have your gunners focus their fire, spread their bullets to keep enemies at bay or use different ammo types. Your pilot can perform more acrobatics as they level up, while engineers can employ different strategies to preserve fuel or burn it up for a temporary speed boost.

Whenever you lose a crew member, though, it's a bit like XCOM, so you have to start all over again and recruit new members. Imagine the heartbreak then, when your entire plane is downed, not only destroying your painstakingly customised and upgraded aircraft, but also wiping out your crew in one fell swoop. Especially after a long, dangerous mission, running out of fuel right before touching down on the runway at base, or having your tail blasted off by an ace pilot, can be pretty hard to take.

You can always hone your skills in challenge mode, where you take on several waves of enemies, different bombing targets, and other objectives, vying only for leaderboard supremacy without the consequences of losing your plane and crew. It's the campaign that holds the most allure in Bomber Crew, though, walking that razor's edge between returning home victorious or plunging into the sea in a ball of flames. It also gives you a very real sense (despite the cartoony art style) of the claustrophobia and danger aboard a WWII bomber, but above all, Bomber Crew is jolly good fun.

Bomber Crew

Combining strategy, action and roguelike permadeath, Bomber Crew is thoroughly enjoyable, and well worth a look.

Form widget
75%
Audio
60%

Epic music frames the action nicely, while there's a certain charm to the garbled chatter from your crew. A bit of proper voice work might have been nice, though.

Visuals
70%

Pleasingly chunky and colourful cartoon visuals, with a glut of customisation options that you can see on your plane. Scenery is very basic, but it does the job.

Playability
80%

Initially a bit complex and fiddly to begin with, you'll soon be managing your bomber and its crew like a pro. It just takes a little persistence.

Delivery
70%

Missions can get slightly repetitious and challenge mode doesn't hold too much appeal compared to the campaign, but what's on offer is remarkably solid.

Achievements
80%

An excellent spread across the game's campaign, there's also a few achievements rewarded for putting in the time and keeping your crew alive. Nice.

Game navigation