It's war! Hideous, interplanetary war, and the suits and brass hats at Wing Men Corp know just what that means; beaucoup profits for those with the gumption and firepower to take advantage of an opportunity! Obviously the Wing Men execs have never heard of the broken window fallacy, or maybe they just want to be the glaziers, so to speak. Regardless! In this real-time strategy title of mercenary aerial combat, you play one of Wing Men Corp's bright new generals, set on wiping out the soulless, invading alien hosts to save mankind and make a pretty sum in the process.
You start each level with a base ship, a number of possible planes and powers to purchase, and a "fund" with which to purchase them. Planes pilot themselves, so the strategy comes in cranking out as many of the right sort of planes as possible, and in deploying powers like EMPs and airstrikes in a targeted and timely fashion. The alien armada has planes, powers, and a base ship of its own, and the goal of each level is to destroy the base before the enemy destroys yours. You earn a little bit of cash slowly as the game progresses, and a-sploded enemy ships drop little dollar signs that you collect with your mouse for further profits. Every plane and power has a recharge time, so you have to spend your money slowly and judiciously.
Analysis: I suppose that Wing Men could be a satire on the antics of for-profit companies involved in wartime activities, but I prefer to think of it as a play on the mercenary conventions of strategy and defense titles. Indeed, Wing Men's gameplay could hardly be more essentialist: Buy ships to kill ships to make money to buy more ships to kill more ships. You don't even have to worry about the tedious particulars of piloting and targeting for the most part. The joy is in deploying wave after wave to execute your destructive orders.
The presentation and design in Wing Men is pretty slick. The art is bold and arcade-like, the soundtrack appropriately martial. I especially like the WWII-style of the menu, briefing, and debriefing screens. The orders from your boss (who must have heard a lot of jokes about his name at the academy) are silly but sort of enjoyable. The quality of the written English instructions and narrations is a little clumsy, in an "All-Your-Base" sort of way. One of our reviewers wondered if this was deliberate, and if it is, bravo!
The simplicity of Wing Men is its strength and its curse. On the one hand, the purity of the experience is not without its pleasures. On the other, it can get bogged down in grind pretty quickly. While many levels introduce new gambits and toys to play with, the layout and level design is always the same; send your ships to the right side of the screen to cleanse with fire and rocketry. Further, the AI sometimes frustrates. In one level my ships were getting demolished by the enemy's single turret, but they preferred to concentrate their fire on the base instead. I wanted to say, "Guys, the bullets aren't coming from the base!" but the game doesn't let you make these adjustments, and you have to be content with the bumbling savvy of your computer-controlled pilots.
Nevertheless, Wing Men is a bold stroke of simplicity for the casual strategy defense genre. While the gameplay is a little shallow and underdeveloped, that can at least partly be explained by its minimalist take on strategy gaming. It's simple and straightforward, like Wing Men Corp's take on warfare and business. "War is money?" Play to find out.