Glory Days 2 is one of those games that you've never heard of that reaches up, grabs you, and takes hold of you for a little while. I was contacted before the game was released last week and asked to check the game out. I figured it would be something cool to check out but something that I would pass on to Sean "Lord of the DS" Colleli. The game came in and I played it for a bit, then played it a little more, and then started playing it more and more and soon got hooked on the game.
Glory Days 2 is an interesting action/strategy hybrid. The action part of the game has you providing air cover for your ground units and the strategy part involves you picking which units you will send out against the enemy. It's an interesting mix that takes some getting used to as you have to learn how to fly your plane/helicopter and dispatch units at the same time. The simple controls make this easy but as the action heats you I learned that making troop selections is best done while you are stationary (it's a lot like talking on the cel phone while driving).
When I say strategic don't expect to be plotting out pincher movements or any kind of complex strategy. Rather the strategic element is determining which units you want to deploy and how far you space them from each other. Spacing is important because the battlefield is just a single line. On the right side of the line is your base with the enemy forces entrenced on the left side of the line. Located between the two bases are several command bunkers which you can capture with infantry. It is important to capture the bunkers as they generate revenue for which you can use to purchase more infantry and vehicles to wage war with. You can bomb occupied bunkers to prevent the enemy from gainign revenue from them but you need infantry to convert them to your side. Another source of revenue is to pick up the civilians that are trying to escape the war zone with giant wads of ill gotten cash. I don't know if that's really the case but that's the fiction I created for the little blue shirted people that I have to rescue. Of course you can only pick up the civilians if you're flying the helicopter as picking them up in a plane would be messy. This part of the game is very reminiscent of Choplifter, except now you have guns, bombs, and missiles to defend yourself with.
The key to Glory Days 2 is learning to manage these two elements. You are constantly flying to the frontline to take out enemies, drop off troops, pick up civilians, and then flying back to re-arm/re-pair your vehicle . Later on in the game you can deploy mobile re-arming units but it's not until much later in the game. To make life easier on you teh game uses both DS screens to give you a picture of the battle. The top DS screen shows where you are in the battlefield while the lower screen shows what is going on at the front line or if something of interest is happening. While it's hard to watch both screens while you are engaged in combat you can quickly glance down at the lower screen to see if something needs your attention or not.
The single player side of the game features 16 missions and tells the story of several different pilots as they progress through the wars. Between the missions you get letters home from each of the pilots which provide the narrative for the game. The letters are a little on the schmaltzy side but do a good job of providing some context for what you are doing. Over the course of the 16 missions you'll get new weapons and aircraft as you move from WWII era aircraft to modern day aircraft. The difficulty does ramp up pretty quickly as you get new units and get new challenges thrown at you but it never gets overly frustrating. Most missions will take a few tries to get through and are fairly enjoyable to play through.
The pace of the game varies depending on if you're flying a jet or a helicopter. Personally I liked flying the helicopter more than the jet as there are things you can do with it than with the jet as it's a little easier to bomb someone when you are hovering over them versus flying over them. Plus there's the whole side of being able to pick up and drop off troops and rescuing the civilians that you can't do in the jet. Of course the slower aircraft tends to absorb more anti-aircraft fire but that's one of the few disadvantages of the helicopter. The game does give you a good selection of weapons. Besides bombs, missiles, and a machine gun you have access to a few "super-weapons" which allow you to carpet bomb an area, drop in troops, or launch a somewhat controllable missile. You have to be careful with the carpet bombing and missile options as you have to be sure that you don't hit your own troops with the weapons.
One thing I really liked about Glory Days 2 is that the game provides you with two different ways to control the game. You have a traditional d-pad control scheme as well as one that utilizes the touch screen to fly. Personally I prefer the d-pad scheme as it leaves both screens visible and you can hold the DS comfortably while play but the other control scheme works just as well for those who feel the need to use the touch pad. I wish more companies would offer this option as sometimes it's just nice to play a game without having to bust out the d-pad.
Outside of the single player campaign the game also features a battle mode where you can setup your own battles against the computer. This mode allows you to configure almost every detail of your game from the level of technology down to the number of AI pilots to how involved you want to be in unit selection. It's not a bad mode and it gives you a chance to try out strategies but it's not overly challenging unless you really stack the deck against yourself.
The game also ships with a decent multiplayer mode where you can battle it out against 8 other people. Of course this will require a good deal of teamwork as you have to divvy up into one of the two teams which could add some nice elements to the game. I did not get a chance to try this part of the game out as I was unable to locate other people who had a copy of the game to play with and against but it does seem like it could be a lot of fun coordinating attacks and supporting each other.
The graphics aren't exactly pushing the limits of the DS but they are effective. I did occasionally have some issues distinguishing the differences between infantry and civilians but it wasn't too much of an issue (that's my excuse when I accidentally bombed them). The audio on the other hand is top notch. While the audio effects are above average the score for the game is top notch and features a very rousing military theme.
There are a few frustrations with the game and the biggest one is that it can be tough to manage your units and fly at the same time. Picking and flying the units isn't hard it's that you have to manage the spacing of the units as you deploy them. Sure you can deploy five tanks by selecting them and hitting the purchase button but that deploys them all in one big group which can be taken out easily by the enemies. Instead you have to wait between button pushes in order to get the best spacing between units. You can deploy a squad of tanks by pushing the B button which helps manage this somewhat but you still have to manage spacing a bit with the other units. This is especially critical for the re-arming units as they need a lot of space around them because when they get destroyed they will take out any units around them. It's a bit annoying that they couldn't automate this at least partially.
My other frustration is that you can't switch back and forth between flying a plane and flying the helicopter during a mission. There are a lot of times when it would be great to make the switch but that just isn't built into the game. It's not a real killer but I would have loved to have that opportunity during the single player campaign and I'm guessing it would be a very cool feature for multiplayer.
I missed it in the tutorials but you can switch back and forth between a helicopter and jet by pushing the select button when you land. This only works in multiplayer and during the last two missions of the single player campaign.
Glory Days is a real pleasant surprise and something that I really didn't expect to be as good as it was. The game isn't perfect but those looking for a solid DS game with a lot of action and a hint of strategy should check out Glory Days 2.
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A solid action/strategy title that DS owners should at least try once. It's not a perfect game but it's a lot of fun while it lasts