303 Squadron: Battle of Britain from Atomic Jelly
303 Squadron: Battle of Britain is a WWII arcade flight combat game that strives to realistically portray the exploits of the titular squadron. Whilst it doesn’t manage to reach flight simulator levels of fidelity, Atomic Jelly’s tribute to the Polish fighter squadron does set out to provide an absorbing and complete experience that explores both air combat and ground-based activities.
Flying! (And Also Bicycling)
303 Squadron doesn’t like to rush and the opening of the game is appropriately ponderous. Set at the airfield that serves as both a base and an area for side quest activities, the introduction provides a basic overview of plane modification and presents a couple of the recurring characters that will show up both in and out of missions. The airfield is an atmospheric hub area, but it is rather a large place to navigate, even on bicycle, and while this may be realistic, it does tend to make for a frustrating intermission experience.
The combat missions themselves can be set to arcade or realistic modes; as far as I could tell, this mainly determines whether the game will be set to third person or first person mode, respectively. I actually found the arcade mode to be extremely tricky to get to grips with using the default control scheme and so immediately switched to realistic, which was far more enjoyable.
I found the aerial combat to be immediately engaging; 303 Squadron opts to include some light simulation mechanics – engine heat needs to be managed, for example – but generally keeps things straightforward. Hunting down enemies and lining up shots was good fun for a while, but I did eventually find the action a little repetitive, despite the occasional mission objective variation.
Morale Booster or Morale Bummer?
It’s when 303 Squadron returns to the ground that things get less thrilling. The aforementioned bicycle trips around the airfield get tedious after a while, and the side quest activities provided between missions can be somewhat bland (collecting mushrooms from the small woodland areas being one of the more egregious examples).
Some of it provides a little context and flavor, but I reached the end of my patience when I was asked to find a carrot and then to listen to a radio broadcast that informed me of the eyesight-related benefits of eating said carrot. All of this provided a morale boost, apparently.
Not Quite High Flying
The visuals of 303 Squadron are certainly passable, if not exemplary. I did encounter a few graphical glitches, but none lasted for very long, and they didn’t harm the experience. The audio is far superior, and some of the action music for the flight segments is quite punchy. Overall I found the aesthetics of the game effective at conjuring the desired atmosphere, but they are certainly far from dazzling.
303 Squadron is an enjoyable tribute to its namesake, and it tries to explore the life of a pilot with some enthusiasm. It does unfortunately seem to get a little caught up in trying to provide what turn out to be mundane side activities for the out-of-combat parts of the game. Otherwise, this is a reasonably engaging flight combat game.
303 Squadron: Battle of Britain is available via Steam.
Watch the official trailer for 303 Squadron: Battle of Britain below: