Red Wings: Aces of the Sky is an arcade action flight simulator that gives you the opportunity to relive the epic aerial battles of World War 1. Developed and published by All in! Games, Red Wings: Aces of the Sky delivers 50 action-packed campaign missions with striking cel-shaded graphics and satisfying retro gameplay!
In the Story Mode, you will witness the rise and fall of Manfred von Richthofen, historically known as the “Red Baron”. He was a fighter pilot in the German Air Force during World War I and officially credited with 80 air combat victories. You have the choice to become a part of his squadron or to lead the hunt to take him down in two separate Story Mode campaigns (each containing 25 missions) called Triple Alliance and Triple Entente. (Mini history lesson here: The Triple Alliance was a secret agreement between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy, while The Triple Entente was an informal understanding between the Russian Empire, the French Third Republic and the United Kingdom.)
However, as enticing as this story seems on paper, both campaigns failed to grab my interest, constantly leaving me wanting more. In addition, there is another mode called Survival in which you have to endure an onslaught of enemies for 13 rounds. Both the Story Mode and Survival Mode can be played in Local Split-Screen Co-Op. Thankfully, the gameplay of Red Wings: Aces of the Sky more than makes up for the lacklustre story.
Starting Off Strong!
Red Wings: Aces of the Sky begins with an excellent tutorial mission to help accustom you to the control scheme along with teaching you the four unique skills that can be used in combat. First up is the ‘Barrel Roll’, which is used to dodge incoming enemy fire. Next up is ‘Quick Comeback’, employed to quickly turn yourself around. ‘Call Your Squadron’ can be applied if you need some temporary back up. Finally, ‘Fatal Takedown’ is used to finish off a wounded enemy. Doing so resets your cooldowns and heals yourself. Consider this your ‘Ultimate Ability’. However, you must take down eight enemies if you wish to activate it. In addition, the charming cel-shaded graphics and tight and responsive controls certainly give the game a strong positive impression. Red Wings also runs at a smooth 60fps. There are a few minor drops here and there, but nothing game-ruining.
The Core Gameplay!
Now that you have finished the tutorial, you can begin the Story Mode. Throughout the campaigns, you’ll have the chance to unlock and handle ten historic warplanes, (five for each story) along with a variety of skins to gain access to. These ten different planes all contain different stats such as Max Speed, Endurance and Heat Resistance. Figuring out which plane to use during certain missions is crucial for success in the late game.
Additionally, every mission is rated out of stars. You can acquire up to three stars by completing a mission in the restricted amount of time specified or by achieving the recommended high score in the mission details. You use these stars to unlock skills and upgrades such as lowering your cooldowns or increasing your critical hit rate.
Now, this is not a realistic flight simulator. It’s an arcade-style game, which is good, because I’m not typically a fan of flying games. During gameplay, you have to keep an eye on your fuel capacity, make sure your guns don’t overheat and that you’re not sustaining too much damage. The general gameplay has a nice retro arcade feel to it, complementing the sweet controls that are not too complicated but have a decent learning curve to them.
Combat can be an incredibly exhilarating experience when you’re outnumbered and taking heavy fire, desperately trying to survive. I will say the gameplay loop can feel repetitive at times, but the game does do a good job of switching things up to keep things fresh. During your missions, you’ll be battling in green fields, heavy rainstorms, snowy cities and sunny deserts. Furthermore, there is some decent mission variety.
In some cases, it’s about achieving a high score, which requires you to keep your combo meter going if you want to achieve three stars. An additional type of mission is a frantic dash through a course of mid-air rings, similar to the infamous Superman 64, although not nearly as bad! Another curveball is ‘The Bomber’ sections, where you rain-down bombs on crucial objectives whilst dodging artillery fire. If you’re a completionist like me, you’ll want to achieve three stars on every mission. Trying to perfect every level along with unlocking all the additional skins will leave you with hours of content.
Consequently, the game keeps adding new types of enemies as you advance in the story. As the game goes on, the challenge steps up, and it becomes harder and harder to achieve three stars. With stronger and more advanced enemies, additional objectives and the extra threat of artillery fire to dodge, Red Wings: Aces of the Sky certainly doesn’t mess around when it comes to difficulty. How you spend your crucial skill points will truly determine how easy your road to glory will be.
What About The Rest?
Apart from the Story Mode, the only other option is Survival Mode. However, this option isn’t very deep. It’s really just used to test your skills, because you can’t earn any skill points from playing. Unless the developers add future content, I can’t see this game having much replay value once you’ve beaten both of the campaigns. I do hope that the addition of an online mode will appear in the following months.
Also, some missions will require an additional objective to be completed (such as achieving a very high score) if you want to unlock extra skins for your planes. Learning how to maximise your combo meter is crucial if you want to pass the later levels with three stars and purchase those vital upgrades. Once you complete one of the campaigns, you unlock ‘Vintage Mode’ which turns the game black and white. A fun gimmick, although it does kind of waste all the time you put into unlocking the cool skins.
Motion Controls, A Pleasant Inclusion.
Finally, something I failed to notice until halfway through my playthrough was the inclusion of Motion Controls. You can control your warplane with the two joy-con remotes detached from your Nintendo Switch, with the right joy-con held sideways to simulate holding a throttle. The Motion Controls work surprisingly well, although I’m not sure if I could beat the game using this method. But the novelty of holding the joy-cons like plane throttles is a fun distraction.
In addition, I tried the game in portable mode. It looked and ran just fine, although I can’t imagine this is the type of game you’ll want to play in a moving car or train. Furthermore, I tested the two-player option with a friend. The framerate remained solid, and the game was just as exciting to play. It certainly made the late-game easier. Both of the players can choose between the different types of planes to fly, but you do have to share the same skill points and upgrades.
I’ll be honest, I came into this review not expecting much. However, Red Wings: Aces of the Sky fully surpassed my expectations! This is a pure game at heart. It offers up enticing gameplay, simple but charming graphics and hours of intense aerial battles!
Red Wings: Aces of the Sky is out now on the Nintendo Switch for £17.99. With a PS4, X-Box One and PC release coming later this year.
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