Despite solid box art and a well printed instruction booklet, Spitfire Heroes is a basic and plain, albeit very difficult WWII fighter pilot flying game.
Set in the WWII time zone, you are essentially a one man flying army, sent on missions that involve nothing more than blowing up static ground tanks, or other flying aircraft that are destined to shoot you down before you can return the favor. In fact, the enemy AI is nothing less than brutal, shooting you down from great distances with a high level of accuracy. Even if you manage to survive their first wave of attack, getting them to line up in your sights is a very difficult task. Only through a mixture of patient decreasing, then increasing throttle, and sharp turning for a couple minutes, will you be able to actually force the computer air fighter into your crosshairs.
The game has a high difficulty factor, but the play control is very tight and responsive. Strictly using the D-pad and face buttons (no stylus control), shooting, turning, and all movement is very responsive. However, it is very easy to stall your aircraft. Even a small pitch change can force your vehicle into a suicidal nose dive. I lost way too many lives this way…or as the game calls them, “chances.”
The play control may be a wonder to work with, but the difficultly factor is always omnipresent. To help remedy this, the developers included a lock-on system, mapped to the “L” button. But despite my best efforts, I could not get this to work. I tried tapping this button while the enemy craft was right down my line of sight from a great distance, and I did the same when they were within close proximity. No matter what I did, I never achieved a lock-on. If the well designed instructions manual didn’t state this, then I would have never known this feature was in the game.
Graphically, this game is a double edged sword. On the one hand, the controllable plane looks and moves great. But on the other hand, environments are very barren, and any sense of war, urgency, and speed is completely thrown out the window. For example, the player must blow up tanks and a few flying aircraft in the first level before they reach a base. But the player will solely fly over a grassy knoll, only populated by a handful of small shrubbery. In fact, if enemy AI was removed from this game and the player could just fly around, they could have marketed this title as a stress reliever due to the empty, plain environments and low will to do anything. Just sit back and enjoy. But there is no way of knowing where the stage actually ends. There is no indication on the radar or the environment itself. Instead, the player will just automatically turn around if you fly too far into the level. If I had not played other flying games that implemented a feature like this (Star Fox, Rogue Squadron), then I would have thought my game was broken. But the transition from an old colorless film to the real time gameplay before each stage is the most enjoyable visual part of this title.
This game does support 2-4 player via a multi card link, but I was unable to test this feature.
Spitfire Heroes: Tales of the Royal Air Force starts in the right direction with tight play control, but suffers from a high difficultly factor and empty/plain environments. I think wingmen and war-torn stages could have given this game the sense of urgency and war that it desperately needs. Instead, the player will feel like they are taking a joy ride on vacation, only to be blind sided by a ruthless enemy aircraft from a very great distance. A tutorial mission could have eased the player into the game’s controls as well. Instead, the instruction manual is the only point of guidance. Is this the worst game on DS? Definitely not. But there are better flying games on the system.