Growing up, I always wanted to be a pilot. I’d spend countless hours playing flying simulators or building model aircraft. My biggest price and joy was a balsa wood glider I built with my father, cutting each piece to size, gluing it all together and wrapping it in tissue paper before using a thin resin to toughen everything up.
It was months of work. I’d joined the Air Cadets in the hopes of earning my wings, spending hours learning about how aircraft worked and running drills until my feet hurt. Unfortunately life had other plans for me, and things that were out of my control caused that dream to come to an abrupt end.
Fortunately, we still have plenty of flying simulators, as well as games that will give people the chance to dominate the skies in advanced aircraft as the foot troops battle it out on land. But there is so much history for aircraft, and it’s been a long time since I found something that lets you take to the skies in planes from a bygone era. Enter Red Wings: Aces of The Skies. Developed and published by All in! Games, Red Wings has players taking to the skies in planes such as the Fokker D.V II, made famous by Germany’s Ace of Aces, Manfred von Richthofen, or more commonly known as the Red Baron.
Players will have the choice of playing as the Allies as they desperately attempt to down Manfred and his Flying Circus, or take control of the Baron himself in a story that follows an almost comic book-like approach in the way it is presented. Missions themselves will take on a couple of different forms, predominately consisting of dogfights where players must destroy all enemy aircraft. Whether it be defending observation balloons from waves of enemy fighters, a simple search and destroy mission, or a race against time as you duck and weave through checkpoints, most combat will have the same third person perspective with a very simple control system.
On occasion, players will also be tasked with bombing runs, a top down game that has players weaving through incoming anti air flak as they make their way to a target before dropping a devastating payload. Throughout the missions, players will find floating fuel balloons, allowing them to repair any damage caused to their plane, as well as replenishing the oh-so important fuel supply. Alternatively, players can take part is a Survival Mode, which is almost exactly what it says it is.
Players will enter combat with increasingly more difficult waves of enemies. As you build up your kill combo, players will earn points or die in the attempt, but things are changed up a bit in that when you die, it isn’t simply the end of the match. Players will respawn and loose an increasing number of points the more they fall, allowing players to continue on and complete the 13 waves. It feels less like an actual survival mode and more like a “beat your best score” type set up. Either way, both modes are fun, and both modes can be played cooperatively with a friend.
As previously mentioned, the control system is extremely simple, but also somewhat limiting. Unlike more commonly known games, all directional movement is preformed using the left stick, with abilities such as rolling being more of a “special ability” rather than something the aircraft can naturally do. Moving the stick left or right will have your aircraft roll to the side before turning on its own, while up and down will do what you’d expect them to do, and the right stick controls your throttle.
Red Wings: Aces of the Sky also features a bit of a skill system, with the letter buttons performing special abilities, such as commanding your squadron to attack a marked target, or as previously mentioned, performing a barrel roll that temporarily makes your aircraft invincible. I can see how this simple system would allow more people to enjoy the title, but I would have much preferred to fight with complete control over my aircraft, or at least have that as an option. Players will also be able to use motion control when using the Joy-Con controllers, and while this is a bit of fun, it certainly doesn’t seem as responsive as using the stick inputs, leaving me feeling more frustrated than anything.
Surprisingly there is one feature that I found particularly interesting, and almost spelled my doom on a number of occasions. As you fly around, players will need to keep an eye on their fuel level, and the level of throttle will directly affect how quickly this drops. Playing through the missions, players are rewarded with up to three stars dependant on how they performed. Completing the mission within certain parameters will award more stars that players can then spend on a rudimentary skill tree, reducing the cooldown of special abilities or further increasing the damage their weapons can dish out.
Players will also be awarded points during the missions, potentially unlocking paint schemes or more aircraft with which to take to the skies. These new aircraft can be used when playing previous missions again, giving players a slight advantage and possibly earning the extra star or two that may have been missed.
The majority of the game is played with cartoon-like graphics, which was somewhat expected given it’s on the switch, though the models themselves are fairly well detailed and beautifully represented. The few cut scenes are done in a way that looks a little like an old American comic, while a somewhat monotonous voiceover occurs. I also found it interesting that even when playing as the Axis forces, the majority of the dialogue was spoken in a British accent, unless a particularly German sounding word was required, in which case it suddenly and abruptly changed in tone. There is very little in the way of music, save for cut scenes and menus, but the selected tracks are entirely appropriate, sounding as though they are being played on a gramophone and working perfectly with the World War 1 storyline.
With eight different aircraft to pilot, a story that follows both sides of one of the biggest wars in history, and a simple control scheme, Red Wings: Aces of the Sky is a fun little title that offers its own unique challenges. Sure, it’s not as involved as some of the more well-known combat games, and plays using a scoring system more suited to mobile games, but it’s still a whole lot of fun. Players young and old will be able to take control of some of history’s most beautiful aircraft, engaging in daring dogfights during the most romantic period of aerial combat in human history.
- Simple Controls
- A number of aircraft and two parallel stories
- Challenging, albeit simple gameplay
- A variety of mission types
- There is no option for a more realistic control setup
- Engagements can be predictable
- Voice acting can feel monotonous
- The motion control felt clunky