Red Wings: Aces of the Sky’s first few missions are some of the best aerial combat found on Switch. But the game starts losing momentum as soon as the gameplay shifts.
Developer: ALL IN! GAMES
Publisher: ALL IN! GAMES
Release date: May 21st, 2020
Price: $19.99 via digital download, launch discount price $17.99
Availability: Nintendo eShop
Red Wings: Aces of the Sky beginning promisingly, as you take to the skies in your trusty Fokker Triplane. (You can also hop into the cockpit of a Nieuport 17, with a second campaign offering a French perspective on the war). Play though the game’s optional tutorial and you’ll discover Red Wings isn’t a stanch simulation. Instead, it’s more of an accessible air combat game, in the vein of Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge (2003) or even Snoopy vs. the Red Baron (2006). Here, you won’t have to worry about ammunition supplies or even crashing into the ground.
Built on a thoroughly polished engine, Aces of the Skies’ early stages throw you into right into the midst of things, where waves of amateurish adversaries make for easy fodder. Elevated by a far-off draw distance and fluid framerate, you’ll follow red arrows on your decidedly anachronistic heads-up display. Once foes dare pass by your highlighted crosshairs, you can opt to zoom in, and let loose with a barrage of bullets.
An impressive Engine and Smooth Framerate
Satisfyingly, defeated foes arc downward, emitting a telltale trail of black smoke before shattering into fiery fragments. Innovation arrives in the form of abilities regulated by cool-down meters and gauges that fill after every kill. Here, a press of a face button can perform an evasive barrel roll, Immelmann, or send AI-piloted allies after a targeted enemies. There’s even an over-the-top kill shot, where your pilot pulls out his pistol, takes aim, and shoots an opponent. Sure, they’re over the top, but these abilities truly add to the enjoyment of air combat.
After each mission, you’ll be graded with rating between one and three stars. Often, this is based on completion time, prodding players further into the campaign, where they’ll earn new planes and capacities that help speed up completion times. You’ll use these stars to augment your abilities. So, with a bit of investment, you’ll barrel rolls with do damage when crashing into foes, while your aerial attack dogs grow in number.
Auto-Aim, but Not Auto-Play
Aces of the Sky demonstrates a number of diminutive nuances that elevate play. Aim-assist is present but doesn’t make gunning down foes automatic. While it follows a target, to be effective, you’ll still need to zoom in and make small adjustments to light up opponents. Later, you’ll encounter armored foes. Unless you take them down quickly, there planes will self-repair, forcing you to pursue specific foes. Pleasingly, they’re not the only ones with this ability. When you do take damage, flying through floating rings instantly fixes your plane. Clouds plays a role in Red Wings as well. When enemies fly though these thick plumes, you’ll often lose track of them momentarily.
Naturally, different enemies and tasks add variance as well. Occasionally, you’ll be taking down or protecting zeppelins. But when Aces of the Sky offers it first bombing run, things begin falling into a tailspin. Instead of using the game’s typical three-dimensional perspective the title shifts to an overhead angle. Here, evading eruptions of flak with your slow aircraft feels a bad shoot ‘em up. Worse, hitting your target is far too easy. I love when flight games offer an interesting bombing system to complement dogfighting, so this was a letdown.
Leave the Aviation tests to Pilotwings
But things get worse. In the interest of mission variety, Aces of the Sky sporadically tosses flight agility tests at players in the middle on its two campaigns. These involve soaring through numerous rings, each representing about ten seconds worth of fuel. Miss one and you can usually use your Immelmann ability. But miss two and it’s a mission fail. It’s moderately difficult when the rings are stationary, but when Aces of the Sky turns them into moving targets it’s frustrating to fail on the 49th of 50 targets. These tedious missions should have either been left on the cutting room floor or have been optional exercises.
Bolstered by an adept engine, Red Wings: Aces of the Sky starts off strong. Early dogfights are engaging and elevated by MMO-like abilities that undoubtedly add to the approachable, arcade-style gameplay. But when the game veers from its strengths to pursue other duties, Red Wings falters. And that’s a shame because from air-to-grounds could have catapulted the game to greatness.
Red Wings: Aces of the Sky was played on Switch
with review code provided by the publisher.