Treehouse Ltd. has just released a new take on the top-down aerial shooter formula in the form of 1951 - World War One [App Store] for the iPhone. The game takes place in an alternate history where, on June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip's gun jammed, letting Archduke Franz-Ferdinand live to see another day.

With this single mechanical failure the seed of First World War was never sown, and without the humiliation of Versaille's there was no wind to fan the flames for a second one. Adolf Hitler had to make his living as a mediocre marketplace artist at the streets of Vienna instead of becoming the dangerous, dictatorial dreamer he would otherwise have been. But without two global wars to drive the technology forward the world of 1951 remains much like the world at the turn of the century - colonialism upholding imperial economies and withering alliances cemented with royal marriages. It's Imperialism iced with biplanes and rock'n roll!

It's a rather interesting premise and -- who knows -- it might not be too far off the mark in that particular "what if" scenario. What I can tell you is that this game is definitely right on the mark as far as a title that's absolutely worth its 20MBs on your device. This game is just great.

1951 is a top-down aerial shooter something akin to the arcade classic 1942, but with such striking graphic realism that's it's something of a flawed comparison. The game places you high above Europe in a biplane with the simple goal of kill-or-be-killed. The scrolling landscape far below and the clouds and other artifacts of the varying weather patterns look amazing and the 3D aircraft (and the plumes of smoke that they'll soon be streaming) render in very nicely. It's a definite looker, but there's more than looks that set this one apart.

The game's entire system of control, response, and damage is much more of a realistic affair than something like 1942, which is a more "standard" shooter. Incoming enemy aircraft, which are marked with a directional star at the edge of the screen when they're out of view, do not hang about in an ever-present swarm. Rather, you need to seek them out and chase them, and it takes work to stay on their tail. It also takes work to shoot them down. Rather than simply shoot-hit-boom, in 1951 you must fire volleys of shells, smattering the target with maybe 10 to 15 direct hits before smoke gives way to flame and an earthward death-spiral.

And, of course, the enemies are shooting back at you all the while. But, I find you're much more likely to be done in by direct collision with incoming enemy aircraft than by way of their shells. As they fly onto the screen, they're usually headed straight for your fixed, centered position and it takes some maneuvering to avoid a crash which, depending on severity, inflicts a range of damage to your biplane. What's more, you need to contend with the barrel-rolls and Immelmann maneuvers the enemy pulls off mid-battle. Luckily, as you level-up, you too can acquire these special abilities, among others.

1951 features two single-player play modes: Wave Mode and Survival. The former, as the name might suggests, moves you through wave after wave of enemies, each larger than the one before, while the latter sends you on a bid to simply stay alive as long as you can. Success here is tracked via OpenFeint. The game uses tilt controls to rotate your craft left and right, with tap controls for fire and activation of certain special abilities such as repair and a sort-of auto-destroy weapon. A throttle slider to the far left regulates your speed, and successfully avoiding collisions requires frequent adjustment, here. The onscreen control response feels very smooth and precise as opposed to a "twitchy" affair -- and it's a good thing too, as precision is what it takes to track an enemy and fill him with 15 pieces of lead.

1951 - World War One is a very nice variant on the 1942 shooter formula that's extremely well put together. It's visually quite impressive and works you a bit harder than a more typical fire-and-forget shooter. Bear in mind that a twitch-shooter, this is not -- it's much more about precision and accuracy. I'd urge all the shooter fans out there to take a good, close look at this one.

TouchArcade Rating

  • araczynski

    looks great, the bullets/canvas sound is great, but the music is offputting (to me), but with all that polish i'm guessing the option to turn it off is there.

    ipad version in the works?

    • http://www.myvirtualgirlfriendgame.com polygrafix

      I agree, the music is southern bayou, rockabilly. It's sending mixed signals when i watch the video. Something histrocial, orchestra would be more fitting.

  • araczynski

    looks great, the bullets/canvas sound is great, but the music is offputting (to me), but with all that polish i'm guessing the option to turn it off is there.

    ipad version in the works?

    • http://www.myvirtualgirlfriendgame.com polygrafix

      I agree, the music is southern bayou, rockabilly. It's sending mixed signals when i watch the video. Something histrocial, orchestra would be more fitting.

  • http://www.squarezerostudio.com squarezero

    I like this game quite a bit too, but I can't help but be disappointed that they didn't do a true campaign mode. The premise is fascinating, but right now it's just decorative -- would have loved to see it develop within a story, characters, etc.

  • http://www.squarezerostudio.com squarezero

    I like this game quite a bit too, but I can't help but be disappointed that they didn't do a true campaign mode. The premise is fascinating, but right now it's just decorative -- would have loved to see it develop within a story, characters, etc.

  • munkee

    Is it like Blue Sky Elite?

  • munkee

    Is it like Blue Sky Elite?

  • roadblocked

    looks great but a no buy for me till we get retina display support.

  • roadblocked

    looks great but a no buy for me till we get retina display support.

  • MrMuesli

    The mechanics remind me of Stellar Blaster, an early app store game that I played like a nutter! Thanks for the heads up. @araczynski - I've played for a few minutes and so far no sign of the music in the video. Instead there's atmospheric moody cinematic music with brass, low strings and....bongo's! It fits very well.

  • MrMuesli

    The mechanics remind me of Stellar Blaster, an early app store game that I played like a nutter! Thanks for the heads up. @araczynski - I've played for a few minutes and so far no sign of the music in the video. Instead there's atmospheric moody cinematic music with brass, low strings and....bongo's! It fits very well.

  • Noah

    It looks too 2D to me... maybe if you could pull up or dive, and have the plane get smaller or bigger would give it a better sense of depth. *shrug*

    • theDaniel

      "maybe if you could pull up or dive, and have the plane get smaller or bigger would give it a better sense of depth. "

      That would be awesome. But there is none. It's semi

      • theDaniel

        semi-2D

  • Noah

    It looks too 2D to me... maybe if you could pull up or dive, and have the plane get smaller or bigger would give it a better sense of depth. *shrug*

    • theDaniel

      "maybe if you could pull up or dive, and have the plane get smaller or bigger would give it a better sense of depth. "

      That would be awesome. But there is none. It's semi

      • theDaniel

        semi-2D

  • Robert

    Wouldnt a top down mini squadron be a better comparison?

  • Robert

    Wouldnt a top down mini squadron be a better comparison?

  • Adam

    I would definitely buy it if an iPad version comes. Hard to resist for iphone but I don't play games as much on that lately.

    • Rad

      I Agree; if it was a universal or Ipad version I would look closer at buying the game.

  • Adam

    I would definitely buy it if an iPad version comes. Hard to resist for iphone but I don't play games as much on that lately.

    • Rad

      I Agree; if it was a universal or Ipad version I would look closer at buying the game.

  • Bill

    Great game but 2 questions:

    - is there a way to silence the music?
    - what does the spinning circle of lightening bolts mean?

    No mention of either of these is game's help. Also, it would be nice to have a directional control rather than tilt option. Overall, a good buy despite these issues.

  • Bill

    Great game but 2 questions:

    - is there a way to silence the music?
    - what does the spinning circle of lightening bolts mean?

    No mention of either of these is game's help. Also, it would be nice to have a directional control rather than tilt option. Overall, a good buy despite these issues.

  • Shnitzel

    Gotta love the MIDI music. sounds like Beautiful People. and then it changes key. like. 4 times.

    • Doc

      It's close enough where I don't mind you being wrong. Reminded me of the track and now I'm listening to it. Joy.

  • Shnitzel

    Gotta love the MIDI music. sounds like Beautiful People. and then it changes key. like. 4 times.

    • Doc

      It's close enough where I don't mind you being wrong. Reminded me of the track and now I'm listening to it. Joy.

  • Uberarcade

    Looks cool. Hate the music though.

  • Uberarcade

    Looks cool. Hate the music though.

  • http://cultivatedgamer.com mystery

    What a terrible dirge, not very 'period' is it?
    Looks like a fun little title though

  • http://cultivatedgamer.com mystery

    What a terrible dirge, not very 'period' is it?
    Looks like a fun little title though

  • Jas

    Aaarghhhh...... my ears

  • Jas

    Aaarghhhh...... my ears

  • Slickninja

    Wow, the music sounds like god awful SNES music. Some people just aren't musicians. With so many people wishing to break into soundtrack work you'd think this would have something epic.

  • Slickninja

    Wow, the music sounds like god awful SNES music. Some people just aren't musicians. With so many people wishing to break into soundtrack work you'd think this would have something epic.

  • Person

    What do you mean, the music rocks?

  • Person

    What do you mean, the music rocks?

  • theDaniel

    With that review, I instantly purchased it. I regret that now. I Like the graphics but this is just to slow for me. And the music is so bad that it makes me sick. I doesnt even find the retro aspect in it. It's just wrong. Maybe I have spent to little time on it so far, but I was hoping this would be something more like Meteor Blitz. It is not. It feels like I'm standing dead still in the air, the handling are awefull and the theme/graphics (is that the right word?) of the game is good.

    For those who expect a lot of action: Get meteor blitz.

    • http://www.squarezerostudio.com squarezero

      From the review:

      "Bear in mind that a twitch-shooter, this is not — it's much more about precision and accuracy."

      How you expected this to be line Meteor Blitz is beyond me.

      • theDaniel

        "twitch-shooter" ... I don't know what that is. It's a language barrier. Maybe I should start using google translator. Maybe my english sucks. We don't have any similar iPhone gaming sites in Norway so I'm pretty much left without any options.

        Maybe my post will stop someone else doing that same mistake. So I guess it's worth something.

        Is it "beyond you" now?

      • theDaniel

        "The game is not a must-have and I think the reviewer is overly generous and misleading — the most misleading statement being that this is a "1942 variant." Air Attack is a 1942 variant. This is a decent zombie survival game with planes for artwork."

        As I would have said it if i could.

      • http://www.squarezerostudio.com squarezero

        Well, I would think that you would understand "precision and accuracy." After all, your English is pretty darn good ;).

        BTW, even though I think Pop Pop is overly harsh, I agree with the gist of his criticism.

      • theDaniel

        "Well, I would think that you would understand "precision and accuracy." After all, your English is pretty darn good ;)"

        It seams like I write better than I read ;) Thank you. I learn. And promiss to read a rewiew more carefully next time, before complaining to much. ;)

        ...And I still don't like the game :P

  • theDaniel

    With that review, I instantly purchased it. I regret that now. I Like the graphics but this is just to slow for me. And the music is so bad that it makes me sick. I doesnt even find the retro aspect in it. It's just wrong. Maybe I have spent to little time on it so far, but I was hoping this would be something more like Meteor Blitz. It is not. It feels like I'm standing dead still in the air, the handling are awefull and the theme/graphics (is that the right word?) of the game is good.

    For those who expect a lot of action: Get meteor blitz.

    • http://www.squarezerostudio.com squarezero

      From the review:

      "Bear in mind that a twitch-shooter, this is not — it's much more about precision and accuracy."

      How you expected this to be line Meteor Blitz is beyond me.

      • theDaniel

        "twitch-shooter" ... I don't know what that is. It's a language barrier. Maybe I should start using google translator. Maybe my english sucks. We don't have any similar iPhone gaming sites in Norway so I'm pretty much left without any options.

        Maybe my post will stop someone else doing that same mistake. So I guess it's worth something.

        Is it "beyond you" now?

      • theDaniel

        "The game is not a must-have and I think the reviewer is overly generous and misleading — the most misleading statement being that this is a "1942 variant." Air Attack is a 1942 variant. This is a decent zombie survival game with planes for artwork."

        As I would have said it if i could.

      • http://www.squarezerostudio.com squarezero

        Well, I would think that you would understand "precision and accuracy." After all, your English is pretty darn good ;).

        BTW, even though I think Pop Pop is overly harsh, I agree with the gist of his criticism.

      • theDaniel

        "Well, I would think that you would understand "precision and accuracy." After all, your English is pretty darn good ;)"

        It seams like I write better than I read ;) Thank you. I learn. And promiss to read a rewiew more carefully next time, before complaining to much. ;)

        ...And I still don't like the game :P

  • Lord Gek

    A random little bit I like is the compromise they made in the Waves game. I for one HATE the concept of endless continues in a game. Sure you choked on the level but, don't worry, we've kept your score from the point you started the level and you can just try again and again. What's worse is if a game like that offers to track any sort of Global Ranking as then all that would mean is, sure it may have 90 days straight just retrying that 20th level, but here is his amazing end score!

    What they do here in Waves, however is pretty sneaky. You play through waves until you die and on the next try you'll have another go at the level you just died on (sound pretty identical to most leveled games, eh?) but HERE is the tricky part. If you now fail to make it off the last level you died on during this retry, next time you play will be one wave earlier. Basically if you can't hack the current wave and even fail again on the retry you ass is DEMOTED a stage! ;-P

    • araczynski

      sounds retarded to me, too bad they don't give you the option to play whichever you prefer, some prefer self flagellation, some prefer moving on.

    • Rustyjaw

      That's very similar to the 'continue' scheme used in the arcade game Tempest back in 1980!

  • Lord Gek

    A random little bit I like is the compromise they made in the Waves game. I for one HATE the concept of endless continues in a game. Sure you choked on the level but, don't worry, we've kept your score from the point you started the level and you can just try again and again. What's worse is if a game like that offers to track any sort of Global Ranking as then all that would mean is, sure it may have 90 days straight just retrying that 20th level, but here is his amazing end score!

    What they do here in Waves, however is pretty sneaky. You play through waves until you die and on the next try you'll have another go at the level you just died on (sound pretty identical to most leveled games, eh?) but HERE is the tricky part. If you now fail to make it off the last level you died on during this retry, next time you play will be one wave earlier. Basically if you can't hack the current wave and even fail again on the retry you ass is DEMOTED a stage! ;-P

    • araczynski

      sounds retarded to me, too bad they don't give you the option to play whichever you prefer, some prefer self flagellation, some prefer moving on.

    • Rustyjaw

      That's very similar to the 'continue' scheme used in the arcade game Tempest back in 1980!

  • Rad

    The spinning around in the video makes me dizzy.

  • Rad

    The spinning around in the video makes me dizzy.

  • theDaniel

    One more thing: This is NOT camparable to 1942!

  • theDaniel

    One more thing: This is NOT camparable to 1942!

  • Mike

    Just bought it. There's not a lot here. Great idea and design, but gameplay is repetitive. Why have all this great backstory and no missions? Feels unfinished. Love the start though.

  • Mike

    Just bought it. There's not a lot here. Great idea and design, but gameplay is repetitive. Why have all this great backstory and no missions? Feels unfinished. Love the start though.

  • http://www.unrealphd.com UnrealPHD

    This iphone game looks great! It looks fun to play and I look forward to playing this game. -UnrealPHD Games

  • http://www.unrealphd.com UnrealPHD

    This iphone game looks great! It looks fun to play and I look forward to playing this game. -UnrealPHD Games

  • http://mn8multimedia.com Mn8Multimedia

    Great concept and nice artwork. They did a nice job with the gameplay trailer too.

  • http://mn8multimedia.com Mn8Multimedia

    Great concept and nice artwork. They did a nice job with the gameplay trailer too.

  • Pop Pop

    I don't understand why the took such a great story concept and pretty much just abandoned it. The only reference to a backstory is in a few paragraphs that you can choose to read on the menu screen. Otherwise, it's just a simple survival game that more closely resembles a top down Mini Squadron. The game should have just been called "Fantasy Biplane Dogfight," though the "fantasy" part is stretching it.

    The game is not a must-have and I think the reviewer is overly generous and misleading -- the most misleading statement being that this is a "1942 variant." Air Attack is a 1942 variant. This is a decent zombie survival game with planes for artwork.

  • Pop Pop

    I don't understand why the took such a great story concept and pretty much just abandoned it. The only reference to a backstory is in a few paragraphs that you can choose to read on the menu screen. Otherwise, it's just a simple survival game that more closely resembles a top down Mini Squadron. The game should have just been called "Fantasy Biplane Dogfight," though the "fantasy" part is stretching it.

    The game is not a must-have and I think the reviewer is overly generous and misleading -- the most misleading statement being that this is a "1942 variant." Air Attack is a 1942 variant. This is a decent zombie survival game with planes for artwork.

  • jason

    i wouldnt use 'dreamer' to define hitler..

  • jason

    i wouldnt use 'dreamer' to define hitler..