Unless you flunked history class, the title 1951: World War One shouldn’t make a lot of sense. But in this game’s world, history went a little differently. A gun jam prevented the assassination that started World War 1, setting that global conflict back 37 years. Unfortunately, that’s the last you’ll hear of this intriguing alternate-history setup.
1951 is a top-down aerial shooter, and the fact that it’s WW1 in the 1950s doesn’t seem to make any difference at all. The only nod to the setting is the rock-and-roll riff that plays when you activate one character’s invincibility move, and even then the music seems stuck in a buggy loop. This is probably not the intended effect.
An alternate history that looks about the same as ours.
Although the storyline is underutilized, the flying action is still great. You steer your plane with tilt, sending it veering side to side in tiny circles. You can also slide a throttle on the left to speed up, and swipe on the screen to perform barrel rolls and loop-de-loops. A constantly-filling adrenaline meter will let you repair your plane and perform unique special moves, which are a real highlight.
Some of these include shooting down enemy planes with an elephant gun, which makes a reticule appear on the screen that automatically seeks out your targets. You can practically imagine your pilot aiming carefully out the cockpit with one squinting eye. Another turns your plane into a battering ram, which is especially helpful because enemy pilots tend to try to knock you down with little regard for their own well-being. The third lets you temporarily deflect enemy bullets back at them.
Hey, it’s the corpse of Dapper Dan!
In addition to your character’s unique special move, you can unlock perks every time you level up, just like in Solomon’s Keep. These may seem random, but the same options will appear at the same time for each character. Since these upgrades offer a degree of freedom and a sense of randomness, they’re the number one reason to keep playing the game.
Also, we enjoyed 1951’s two gameplay modes. In one, a basic survival mode, you have to last as long as possible against increasingly difficult waves. In Wave mode, however, you can continue from one level before where you died. While it’s an interesting concept, this can also be a bit frustrating, as progression usually means two steps forward and one step back.
1951: World War One could use a few minor fixes. Customizable controls would be nice, plus additional game modes, though one is hinted at in the main menu for a future update. It’s still a very fun arcade shooter, and it combines some of the best features of Must Have games like Minisquadron and Solomon’s Keep. We’ll be keeping an eye on this one.