From a game-play perspective, there is very little to distinguish one stage from another, except for the enemy composition. Later stages feature more planes that take multiple shots to destroy, but every stage contains a near constant stream of smaller enemies flooding the screen. The stages are broken up in to sets of four, with a different name for each set, as follows:
|Stages||32 – 29||28 – 25||24 – 21||20 – 17||16 – 13||12 – 09||08 – 05||04 – 01|
"% and Point Up" stages
Stages 29, 25, 21, 17, 13, 9, 5, and 1 are referred to, by the game, as % and Point Up stages. These stages are your opportunity to dramatically increase your score and your destruction percentage, because none of the small planes will shoot at you during these stages. The large planes that enter the screen will still shoot, but you can remain free of the fear of getting shot by everything else, enabling you to play and shoot a little more boldly than you would otherwise. You will be informed of these stages just as you take off from the aircraft carrier, but they begin when you have 29 stages left, and occur ever four stages thereafter.
Racking up high scores and killing high percentages of enemy is a great way to play, but survival is the key to beating the game. Nothing else matters if you can't keep your plane alive through the 32 increasingly grueling stages. The following is a collection of tips that will help you keep your fighter in the air, and the quarters in your pocket.
Stay away from the bottom
It's very tempting, with all of the planes that swoop down upon from the top of the screen, to keep your fighter backed all the way on the bottom of the screen. While this strategy may work in other shooters, and even in 1942 throughout the very early stages, it won't work for long. 1942 likes to send a number of larger, slower moving planes up through the bottom of the screen from behind you. They don't launch onto the screen like the small planes do, so you should have plenty of time to see and avoid them, unless you're pressed up against the screen. At the very bottom, you really won't provide yourself with enough reaction time to get out of the way of a newly arriving aircraft. Somewhere right between the bottom half and the bottom quarter of the screen is a safe place to remain, pulling all the way back in case of emergencies, then correcting your position as soon as the danger has passed.
Keep your eye on your plane
One mistake that novice shooter players tend to make is to monitor everything on the screen except for their own craft. In 1942, this is especially dangerous because the enemy fighters are not simple drones that fire directly on your current position. They employ a little intelligence and try to shoot at where you are most likely to move. If you insist on following your instincts in order to set yourself up for the most advantageous shot, you will likely find yourself colliding unexpectedly with a bullet that slowly floated to meet you at your destination. Therefore, if you spend a little more time watching your own plane, you will have a higher tendency to see any potential dangers immediately around you, and react faster to them. Oftentimes, it is better to stand still right where you are and let the bullets whiz past you, even though this may feel counter-intuitive.
At the end of each stage a bonus is awarded for shooting down percentage and for unused loops :
|Special Bonus Points||50,000ǂ||20,000||10,000||5,000||4,000||3,000||2,000||1,000||0|
ǂ The game displays 10,000 points bonus but 50,000 points are actually awarded.
Unused loops are 1,000 points each. Finishing the final stage awards 10,000,000 points.
Extra lives are offered (depending on the dip switch settings) at 20,000 (or 30,000) points, 80,000 (or 100,000) points, and every 80,000 (or 100,000) points thereafter. If the player earns enough bonus planes so that 10 ships or more are in the reserve, the 10 remaining ships indicators are replaced by a Σ.