From joint studios TikGames and Creat Studios, SkyFighter is a side-scrolling aerial combat shooter set during the World War as you take piloting duties within the Alliance Air Force. Offering gorgeous, colourful 2D visuals, exceptional particle effects (from water to smoke) with period detail and animated backgrounds, SkyFighter also conjures up a handy control scheme that manages to keep a fine line between tight movements and ease of use, allowing a fast-paced but accessible shooter to emerge.
Revolving around 21 separate ‘Campaign’ missions in which you pilot a number of different aircraft, each with their own traits of handling, statistics and mix of weaponry. The game really comes alive when piloting the light, manoeuvrable planes, in which barrel rolls and loops can easily be achieved (slowing down the craft with a hold of ‘L2′), and whilst the bomber sections are a welcome distraction to the whole, leaving devastation in their wake from slow passes over-ground, SkyFighter is instantly more approachable when the twitchy aircraft are under your control. The use of the left thumb stick as a way of directly controlling the craft goes some way to achieving the positivity we feel, however it’s because the action only really kicks off, dogfights and all, when under this guise.
And thus we come on to the mission structure that is perhaps a little devoid of creativity to say the least. We admire the fluidity and fast-paced dogfights, as we’ve just mentioned, on the way to an objective, but SkyFighter insists on mission after mission of bombing the enemy base or destroying oncoming enemy forces. The final mission at least feels substantial and suitably epic, and Creat Studios and TikGames can be applauded in keeping the 40s feel throughout the game, from sepia-tone completion screens, to musical numbers, but we’d have liked to have seen more differentiation in mission design, even if it did sway further from the more realistic vibe. The aforementioned difference in weapon type and weapon control (one aircraft for example can only fire its machine guns with the right thumb stick) goes some way to combating such feelings toward the game, and it does show some promise in its night-time ‘stealth’ sections that task you to pilot through the gaze of piercing searchlights by flying through the cover of clouds and manoeuvring around its glow, dodging air mines along the way.
And although we can’t wholeheartedly tell you that the general feel from the missions is suitably great, it does throw up some interesting scenarios throughout the run-time (around 5 minutes a mission if you don’t use up all your lives and restart). The arcade shooter style comes into its own when enemies fill the screen and the objective flirts below, where you have to switch between firing your main machine gun and dropping grenades timed grenades, picking up weapon drops that rise in hot air balloons for added fire power. The control system is forgivingly easy to get to grips with, and the shooting mechanics slot straight into place. Therefore, never does it feel like your fighting with the game, rather, any mistakes you make are your fault entirely. Cranking up the difficulty level, meanwhile, is sure to test your skill to the highest order (and your patience) as you pilot to become ‘Ace’, and the addition of ‘Awards’, local multiplayer (up to 8 competitively), high-scores and added missions is enough to extend re playability. The graphical style is one stand-out aspect of the game, with hand-drawn 2D backgrounds and environmental detail lovingly interspersed between animated objects and cel-shaded AA guns, enemy tanks and fortifications.
It’s a loving ode to traditional side-scrolling shoot-em-up’s, all with the historical period detail and well handled mechanics to back it up. It might be a little pricey at £9.99 for what you get, but it’s a welcome addition to any collection thanks to its accessibility and high level of polish.
MLG Rating: 7/10
Platform: Playstation 3 Release Date: 22/09/2010
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of SkyFighter for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of three days on a Playstation 3. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.