Either the original Blades of Thunder was a smash hit that nobody knows about, or the sequel was so cheap to make that it bore no foreseeable risk for publisher Summitsoft. Whatever the reason, Blades of Thunder II is here, and it has the distinction of being the first helicopter combat game to grace the Nintendo DS. Aside from that there's absolutely nothing notable about Blades of Thunder II. It's a generic, shallow, and boring shooter that starts getting old the moment you start it up.
It's certainly not on par with even the worst episode of Airwolf, but Blades of Thunder II does have a story of sorts. The game is about a fictional group of peace-loving helicopter pilots known as the World Anti-Terrorist Coalition, who are in charge of protecting freedom and eliminating the terrorist group known as the Solar Martyrs. One day you're sent on a standard mission to blow up a bunch of terrorist training camps in South America (which is extra great, since the back of the box says the game takes place in the Middle East), but as soon as you take off, the WATC headquarters is destroyed...by terrorists, of course. There's no time to ponder the irony, though, as the attack leaves you all alone to eliminate the terrorist threat by hovering around and pecking at indiscernible enemies from afar with a machine gun.
There are more than 15 missions in the single-player campaign, which range from blowing up enemy communication towers to blowing up enemy communication satellite dishes. It all amounts to flying around a large, open map moving from one radar blip to the next until you've eliminated all the blips. It's not quite that easy, though, because the maps are crawling with terrorist helicopters, battleships, missile turrets, and tanks. Luckily, all of those terrorists can easily be taken out with a few rounds from your handy infinite chaingun. You can also use heat-seeking missiles and unguided missiles, but they are in limited supply and aren't any more effective than the chaingun.
Flying into enemy territory will get you killed in a hurry, but since the machine gun has unlimited range (and can even shoot through mountains it seems), you can just hover out of range of your enemies and pick them off one by one. Since the draw distance in the game is short, you'll often just be shooting into the fog and listening for the sound that indicates when you're hitting a target. You know where to shoot because there's a little yellow targeting reticle that snaps on to enemies regardless of whether they're visible or not. Needless to say, shooting at fog gets old pretty quickly.
The controls in Blades of Thunder II are fairly flexible and easy to use. You move the helicopter forward and backward with the D pad and shoot with the L button. You can aim and rotate your helicopter using the four face buttons or by using the touch screen. The touch screen control works fairly well and allows for quicker, more precise aiming than the buttons. No matter which control scheme you use, you'll be frustrated by the lack of altitude control. There's no way to manually adjust your altitude in the game, which is a problem because there are a lot of mountains and valleys to negotiate on the maps. It's best to just avoid flying over mountains altogether, but if you have to, you can inch up against a spot of raised terrain and after a few seconds and a bit of coaxing, your helicopter will rise up over the new level of the land. More often than not, when you do try to go over a mountain, you'll end up running into it and crashing before the game figures out what you're trying to do. As a result, the stages tend to feel confined, which takes all of the fun out of flying.
There are three different helicopters in the game, the main difference being maneuverability and ammo capacity. You can also pick up and purchase upgrades for your helicopters to increase the power of your machine gun, add more missiles, or bolster your armor. However, the upgrade system is limited, and the helicopters in this game are nothing to get excited about.
If the single-player campaign isn't your thing, you can choose to play in freeflight mode. You can choose a helicopter, a map, and a time limit and then just fly around and blow stuff up until you get bored, which won't take long. If somehow you still haven't had enough of this game after that, you can play with up to three other players (who must each have a copy of the game) in a multiplayer deathmatch mode.
Even if you have a profound affinity for helicopters, you'll get bored with this game rather quickly. The combat is repetitive and boring, and even the simple act of flying around an open map is completely bereft of enjoyment. There's nothing fun about shooting fog and stiffly flying over pixelated terrain, and that's about all there is to do in Blades of Thunder II.