Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China is a game by Ace Maddox Which has the players duking it out in the air during different World War II battles. At times, the game is exhilarating as you try to keep your reticle on target as you dodge and weave from the shots coming back at you. Most of the time, however, it is a frustrating experience where the toughest opponent is the floaty controls you are stuck with. The game showed some great potential, but the bad controls and lack of variety are a difficult thing to look past.
Flying Tigers: Shadow Over China is now available for purchase on Steam.
Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China does not excel in the story department. There isn't really an overarching story that has characters and evolves at the game moves forward. Instead, is has several missions that are loosely connected at best. All the missions pretty much consist of just flying around and shooting and/or bombing everything that has red above it. All the characters were just boring cut-outs and never had any personal growth or even just a basic personality. Part of this may have been caused by the stiff writing and poor voice acting.
The only real story aspect you get is at the end of every mission. This report gives you a basic rundown of what just happened and how it would impact the war effort. This was actually rather cool and I enjoyed reading about it even if it never really connected to anything. It was an enjoyable way to try and connect the missions and have them actually build into the actual war effort.
Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China is an arcade air-combat game that has you taking on the role of different planes throughout the different missions. I did enjoy the missions that had you flying around as a bomber as you took out land units with precise drops. It was enjoyable knowing you dropped it perfectly and then hearing everything explode behind you. I just wish it was easier to see said explosion. You have a bomb camera, but it isn't very good. It generally just puts the camera above the plane so you can see the ground, expect the plane takes up 70% of the camera.
Dropping bombs is certainly better than the dogfighting. I made the apparent mistake of trying to play the game with a mouse and keyboard only to quickly realize it was nearly impossible. The mouse is so floaty that just going in a straight line is a true challenge. Any little flick will send the plane in a completely new direction, which isn't great for an arcade shooter. The gamepad was a better experience by far, but the controls were still far from good. They become stiff and constantly using the left stick to try and make small adjustments as you fly around at high speeds actually caused my thumb to hurt after awhile. This could have been fixed by using the right stick to make small adjustments for aiming. Instead, the right stick pointlessly moves the camera. I don't actually know why it does this because moving the camera does nothing for you. The plane doesn't move with it so all it does is disorientate yourself.
These control issues aren't too much of an issue against the regular enemies which seem to just fly in a straight line or take Peter Griffin's strategy of moving slightly to the left. They are no challenge and if it wasn't for the fact they have way too much health, they would drop like flies. Instead, they drop like you are shooting nerf bullets at them. Lessening the time to kill would have made the game much more fun to play. If you could move from plane to plane taking them out of the sky it would have been far more exciting than just focusing on one plane for minutes at a time until you finally drain their health. This isn't helped by the how quickly some of the guns overheat, making the time to kill that much longer. Having anything other than a machine gun to use in these dogfights would have made them at least a little bit interesting.
All this really cumulates to make for a truly frustrating experience once you have to face the Japan's ace flyers. Now, it is important to note that these fights were not difficult. Like much of the game itself, they were tedious. They could last ten plus minutes as you just tried to track them down as they did some crazy flying moves that just made it a pain to shoot them down. It was a very boring experience that I could have done without. They didn't add anything special to the game and did far more to hurt the overall quality of the game. If they do decide to get behind you and shoot all you have to do is loop and you lost them. That works with every enemy in the game, there is little challenge with that.
Another issue I had with the game was the mission structure. I would have much preferred if they were more open rather than just a linear progression of objectives that rarely change from shoot these or bomb those. Occasionally they mix it up a bit and have you fly in a straight line as you stay information. While the controls make it more difficult than it should be, it is still far from exhilarating gameplay. I would have liked it if they just gave me all the objectives at once and let me decide what should be taken out first. It would have given the illusion of choice and opened up the maps a bit. It also would have been nice if the different planes actually felt different from each other. They all felt exactly the same with the only different being if they have bombs or not. Some of the bigger ones couldn't loop to avoid shots, but that was hardly noticeable.
It doesn't help that the multiplayer for this game is boring and dead. I was only able to find a few matches and they only ever had two other players in them. The pro strat for multiplayer is to fly in a circle because when you are making the tight turns the camera doesn't actually move with you so you can't see people when they are just flying around you. I don't know if it is any different with more people and unfortunately I don't think I ever will.
Beyond the multiplayer and campaign is a dogfight mode which I only did a few times. The dogfighting leans more towards service and I wasn't exactly enthralled by it. I certainly didn't want to seek out more of it after the missions.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics are certainly not the best in the world. Everything is pretty ugly and looks like something out of the mid-2000's. They are certainly serviceable, but they certainly aren't anything to fly home about. The different objects on the ground tend to pop in and out of existence and any of the people on the ground look like an ugly mess no matter how close you get to them.
The planes themselves look pretty good. I can usually tell everything apart and I didn't notice anything horrible about them. They had enough detail to be unique, and while a customization option would have been appreciated, I didn't mind flying in any of the planes the game had to offer.
The different environments looked fine from a distance but were far too similar to each other. The only area that stood out were the mountains. The ice peaks mixed with the snow rapidly falling in the dead of night made for quite a memorable map.
The sound design isn't much better. The voice acting is terrible and reflects the bad writing quite perfectly. This combined with the same guitar track that repeats constantly while any other track is completely forgettable. It isn't horrible, but it could have certainly been better. One aspect of the sound design that actually forced me to mute the voices was the random enemy voice lines that happened when they died. They were so annoying that it got to a point where I just had to mute them. Any big battles that had a lot of enemies having an unwelcome meeting with the ground were horrible because of how bad and obnoxious they were. They should definitely be removed or at least occur less often.
Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China is an enjoyable game at times that is held back by repetitive missions and poor controls. The story could have done with some real characters that evolve as the war progresses and they are forced to kill and watch as their friends perish. For an arcade air-combat game, the time to kill was too high and it would have been much better if they went down faster so you could move from enemy to enemy quickly and smoothly.
The graphics are serviceable, but far from preferred. This combined with the mostly boring maps and enemies made the game feel far longer than it was. Despite this, I did have some fun with the game. If you want to fly around and shoot planes down, this will provide a few hours of fun, just don't expect anything great and don't buy if you are interested in multiplayer since it is dead and terrible.
|+ Flying around||– Controls|
|+ Bombing targets||– Voice acting|
|+ Different flying maneuvers||– Maps|