B-17 Bomber gives players control of a USAAF B-17 stationed in England, and a map full of potential targets in continental Europe. The player then selects one of the targets as a destination, pilots the bomber to the selected target, and attempts to bomb it successfully to earn points.
The Intellivision controller proves very useful in B-17 Bomber, as it uses the number pad layout to allow players to quickly switch between different viewpoints and information screens. In addition, the Intellivoice module gives players distinct voice clips as audio cues during gameplay. Some of these sounds include your bombardier saying, “Bombs away!” as bombs are dropped, and other crew members yelling out the direction of enemy fighters; for example, “Fighters, 3 o’clock!”
Development on B-17 Bomber began in 1981, when John Sohl was tasked with creating a game based on one of three concepts that utilized the Intellivoice module. While other programmers worked on Space Spartans and Bomb Squad, Sohl had the responsibility of making an exciting game based on air traffic controllers. Thankfully, the idea quickly evolved into B-17 Bomber once artist Bob Del Principe suggested turning the plane into a bomber flying over Europe.
By 1982, Sohl created an initial version of the game — albeit too big for a cartridge and without solid gameplay mechanics. To help with paring and refining the game, Steve Roney and William Fisher were added to development upon completing Space Spartans. However, the game was still well behind schedule and undeveloped, and many of Mattel Electronic’s staff had to participate in the game’s development in the final weeks to ensure it shipped on time. On the last day of development, when the game absolutely had to be shipped to the cartridge manufacturers, a random visitor to Mattel was roped into playing the game for thirty minutes, which ended up being the only stint of game testing B-17 Bomber received. With the short test successful, the code was shipped off to manufacturers on April 23, 1982, and released shortly thereafter.
The game starts with the player selecting one of six difficulty levels. The easiest difficulty is a practice level, giving the player 200 bombs to play with and easy enemy defenses. The second level of difficulty starts the player off with an initial payload of 10 bombs, with similarly easy enemy defenses. Each successive difficulty level decreases the initial payload by two bombs and increases the enemy defenses, so the toughest difficulty, level six, gives the player an initial payload of two bombs and extremely tough enemy defenses.
From here, the player is given a map of Europe, including a number of potential targets. Any bombing target can be previewed, which will give a close-up view of the target and the points it is worth. The player then selects a destination, which does not have to be their intended target, and prepares for take-off. The destination can be changed mid-flight. The player can also add bombs to their payload before leaving England, but each additional bomb costs its weight in fuel, meaning the maximum bomb load of 17 (outside of practice) will likely leave the bomber without enough fuel to reach most (if any) targets.
Once the player is ready to take-off, they will accelerate the B-17 to 90 MPH, and take to the air. The cockpit view shows the horizon, with blue or green below the horizon depending on whether the plane is above sea or land. The navigation map can also be brought up to see progress towards the target, or to assign a new destination. This 90 MPH speed is rather important, as falling below it will cause the bomber to stall.
As the bomber gets further away from England, it will face enemy fighter pilots that will attempt to shoot it down. As these fighters approach, the game will announce both their presence and location; for example, “Bandits, 9 o’clock!” The player must switch to the proper gun mount and attempt to shoot the enemy fighters down, or they will damage the B-17. Fighters can also damage the gun ports on the player’s bomber, rendering them unusable for the remainder of the flight. Anti-aircraft batteries will also fire flak at the bomber once it is over land, which may damage the B-17 and its bomb targeting sights. The only way to avoid flak is through evasive maneuvers, such as changing air speed, altitude, or banking the plane left or right.
Once the bomber is nearly over its intended target, the player should switch to the bomb bay view, which will give them a top-down view of the ground. The game will notify the player of the target once it appears by saying, “Target in sight!” The player then aims the bombsights and attempts to hit the target. This may be especially difficult if anti-aircraft batteries have damaged the bombsights, which will cause the crosshair to disappear.
When the target has been hit, the fuel load is low, or the plane is too damaged to safely continue, the player should turn back to England. The game will automatically land the B-17 when it crosses England’s coastline. Returning to England repairs any damage, and allows the pilot to choose a different payload if desired. However, on the next flight, both the enemy fighters and anti-aircraft batteries will be more difficult to contend with.
The game ends when the plane crashes by receiving too much damage, running out of fuel, or pilot error.
Players score points by successfully bombing targets, shooting down enemy fighters, and successfully completing missions. Some categories of targets vary in point value, generally based on their importance or distance inland, which make them harder to reach from the England airbase.
- Anti-Aircraft Batteries: 1 point
- Airports: 5 points
- Factories: 20 to 100 points, depending on distance inland
- Ships: 5 to 40 points, depending on size
- Enemy Fighters: 2 points each
- Completing a mission earns bonus points
Dropping bombs on England results in a heavy score penalty that is typically more than enough to negate any points earned.
Game manual at Intellivision Lives.
Intellivision TV-commercial: B-17 Bomber at Youtube.
AVGN: Double Vision Part 1. B-17 Bomber gets some screen time when the Angry Video Game Nerd reviews the Intellivision.