When you first see the list of planes featured in Airfix Dogfighter, you might think that it's a dedicated flight simulation that focuses on various aerial combat missions from World War II - but nothing could be farther from the truth. Instead, Airfix Dogfighter lets you take control of miniature model airplanes (based on Airfix's plastic kits) in a rather unique setting, where larger-than-life bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, and backyards are theaters of war. The game's graphics, weapons, and flight physics have all been appropriately modified to fit with the lighthearted theme of the game. Though traditional flight simulation fans may be turned off by this unrealistic design, there's no denying that Airfix Dogfighter delivers a fun gaming experience.
Airfix Dogfighter isn't the most graphically outstanding game, but you'll appreciate the degree to which attention was paid to properly scaling the planes to the environments. Also, from the North American P-51 Mustang to the Japanese Zero, every plane in Airfix Dogfighter is modeled accurately after its real-life counterpart, complete with transparent cockpit windows, miniature pilots, and clearly visible panels, bolts, and flaps. These details may not seem all that spectacular in a typical flight simulation that tries to accurately model these craft, but when you consider the small scale of the planes in Airfix Dogfighter, these extra details are actually quite impressive. Individual rooms in the house aren't quite as detailed as they could be, and, in fact, many of the textures used are fairly bland and overused in different parts of the house. Airfix Dogfighter tries to make up for the lack of ornate detail in the environments by placing numerous miscellaneous objects in them, and sometimes it works. For example, in one of the early Axis missions (which takes place in the kitchen), you'll find glasses, vases, and other breakables scattered about, which give the room a less sterile look. Likewise, the multiplayer map that features the backyard of the house has chairs, desks, and other objects piled on top of each other to give it a more realistic appearance. If Airfix Dogfighter is lacking anything visually, it's in the special effects. Aside from a few transparent color streams that follow the planes (and the resulting colored lighting that illuminates walls), there aren't any special graphic effects that immediately catch your eye.
Airfix Dogfighter's gameplay centers on a campaign mode in which initially you select to fly for either the Axis or Allied forces, each of which have ten successive missions. Both campaigns start off with a training mission, which simply requires you to fly around your base and gather various items that are scattered across the room, such as missiles and tech medallions that upgrade your weapons if you collect enough of them. After the training flight, the mission objectives will begin to take a more familiar form to traditional flight simulations. You'll be required to attack the enemy base at different points in the house or outside in the backyard, and, on some occasions, protect your own base from enemy raids. The weapons available with which to accomplish your task also fall within the overall theme of the game. The Axis and the Allies both have access to dumbfire and heat-seeking missiles that take the form of colored pencils and crayons. You can leave long trails of parachuting proximity mine packages that are composed of explosive material and matches, which can easily take out slow-moving enemy tanks and bombers. There are other, more high-tech weapons that are just as interesting to use, including the tesla coil, a particle beam, and even an atomic bomb.
Airfix Dogfighter has an interesting premise, and it's generally easy and enjoyable to play. Unfortunately, the occasionally frustrating controls combined with some awkward camera angles and poor collision detection can make the game lose some of its appeal. Flying in open areas is not difficult at all. Depending on their individual characteristics, your planes are predictably responsive as you change direction and speed - bombers tend to have more armor so that they move much slower, while small fighters have less armor but are more maneuverable. However, oftentimes you have to take your plane into small areas, like bookshelves or chimneys, to retrieve items. Once you move inside these small places, you'll find that your plane will literally bounce around in every direction, which forces the camera to compensate by constantly switching positions. This is more of a nuisance rather than a serious problem with the game since colliding with objects does very little damage to your plane; but if your plane somehow manages to hit the corner of a wall or a shelf, it'll automatically explode, and you'll have to start the mission over.
The increasing difficulty of the missions in Airfix Dogfighter may also prove to be an issue. The first five or six missions are relatively easy, as you only need to go directly for your primary and secondary objectives rather than worry about the status of tertiary enemy units. Since there are only ten missions per campaign, you can easily get through a good portion of the game in less than a few hours - but around the sixth mission, the difficulty significantly increases. Instead of just selecting the default plane for the mission, you actually have to take each available plane's unique attributes into consideration. In one particular mission, you must fly your way into a child's bedroom to retrieve a key that opens the bathroom door. The room is moderately protected with tanks and antiaircraft weaponry. But inside the bathroom, there's a barrage of antiaircraft artillery waiting for you, and it is practically unavoidable, as the antiaircraft weapons are strategically placed in areas above the main flight area and below it. Therefore, you'll need to select a plane that can take a substantial amount of damage but that is also maneuverable in the small bathroom space. You'll only pick up on these sorts of details after some trial and error.
In addition to the single-player campaigns, Airfix Dogfighter has an excellent multiplayer mode. You and seven other players can dogfight in several different areas, or you can opt to make your own maps in the game's house editor mode. The house editor mode lets you edit rooms in the house by adding items or different environmental conditions, like flooding. While it's fairly easy to use the editor, the interface is a little simplistic, and it doesn't really give you much in the way of customization other than item placement. If you're having difficulty in finding opponents, the multiplayer mode essentially just turns into a skirmish mode in which you can fight against computer-controlled planes and tanks. Customization doesn't stop at the house editing feature - since the Airfix brand deals with model airplanes, Airfix Dogfighter also includes a sticker editor mode, which lets you edit logos that appear on the wings, nose, and tail of a plane. There are more than ten stickers included, all of which you can edit, or you can create an entirely new sticker from scratch. Both customized maps and stickers can be used in the multiplayer mode.
Essentially, Airfix Dogfighter is a fun and uniquely themed action game inspired by World War II model airplanes. What other PC game lets you pilot actual planes from World War II within a suburban house? The premise and the mechanics of the game might not appeal to fans of typical flight simulators, since your Airfix planes can bounce off objects and even hover in midair as they go about their missions. But the game's only real serious drawback is the lack of a diverse campaign mode, which would give a real incentive for playing through both factions other than seeing different areas of the house. Then again, just one of the two campaigns along with the multiplayer mode and customization features should be enough to keep you busy with Airfix Dogfighter for a while.