Attack on Pearl Harbor isn’t about simulating a famous battle, but about effortlessly flying super-zippy airplanes and shooting other ones out of the sky. It’s pure arcade, with barely a dial to worry about.
You get about 40 missions, playing sometimes as the Japanese and sometimes as the US, with a variety of planes to choose from depending on the mission type. But if you’re sitting up excited to learn which types, settle back down. Yes, you can fly an A6M1 Zero or a BSN1 Kate, but the difference it’s going to make is how heavy your kite feels, and whether it drops bombs or fires missiles. They really may as well be Plane One and Two.
So let’s get the negatives out the way. The missions, while plentiful, are not exactly enormously complex or varied. They consist of shooting down other planes, sinking ships, or blowing up targets on the ground. It gets repetitive. Your motive is loosely outlined in text at the start of the mission, but that’s lost on you as soon as you’re in. And your teammates, while mostly demonstrating decent intelligence, never feel like they’re aware of your presence, happily bumping you out the way to pursue the same plane you were already attacking.
AoPH isn’t sophisticated, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s about dogfighting, and shouting “There’s a bogey on your six!” It’s about rat-a-tat noises, and the enormous satisfaction of seeing the plane you chased burst into catastrophic flames. Either with the mouse, or a gamepad, the planes maneuver ludicrously easily, weaving merrily as they zoom idiotically low to the ground.
The details on the aircraft and buildings aren’t spectacular, but the weather effects and billowing smoke are beautiful. Flying alongside a cloud during a sunset, the view is pleasingly pretty, and it’s nice to be in a combat flight sim where it’s OK to take the time to notice. However, you’ll not want to get shot down, as planes lost during a campaign are gone for good. Playing well earns you new planes to fly, but you’ll want to hold onto them for the harder, later missions. It’s a nice detail that ensures you don’t take the action too flippantly.
AoPH is light and fluffy like a marshmallow. And marshmallows are great. Brain-free, light-hearted combat, toasted on a stick.