Cooperation is a powerful thing; playing a game with other people can turn just about any experience into something ultimately more memorable and entertaining. As such, Catastronauts’ endearing brand of chaos is immediately gripping with even just a single fellow interstellar adventurer in tow.
The gameplay experience boils down to a series of quick, exciting bursts of panic, stress and terror in the best possible way.
Of course, a game can sound or look as good as you like (and in fact the soundtrack is suitably otherworldly too), but at the end of the day it’s still how it plays that really matters. Here the gameplay experience boils down to a series of quick, exciting bursts of panic, stress and terror in the best possible way.
Fighting game-style life bars at the top of the screen cause a creeping anxiety as they deplete in conjunction with the escalating action down below. With each level the stakes are further raised as new mechanics are introduced - giving you new ways to power up your weapons and unleash pain on your adversaries - as well as placing new obstacles in the way of keeping your spaceship in working order.
Catastronauts’ difficulty curve is steep, with an awful lot to keep on top of even in the earliest stages, to the extent that it could be a bit much for new players the first time around. The presentation is so playful and accepting though, even a total failure is met with a smile and urges to suit up again for another go.
Motivation to press on is, unfortunately, a little harder to come by when going at it alone. Solo you’re pushed for time twice as much (or more), needing to swap between two characters to be able to access all of the tools to keep the ship running. Much like Overcooked there’s no AI support here, so you can’t set a character off doing something and then swap between them to save time, which can shift the mood from excited, restless panic to something more aggravating.
If you have a group of four friends together, this is where the magic happens, bringing back nostalgic memories, for those of a more distinguished lifespan, of the golden age of couch co-op starring the likes of Mario Party and Goldeneye. Without your friends on hand though, there’s little else to turn to as there’s no online matchmaking here.
With the busy, end-of-year festive period creeping closer than we’d like to admit, Catastronauts feels like a perfect game to bring people together at a host of seasonal gatherings, nestled comfortably between some Mario Kart 8 Duluxe and Quiplash.
There’s plenty of good natured fun on offer here, and while the difficulty might prove too much for soloists, or even those in a pair, as a group of four the balance feels much more natural and lets everyone contribute.
For a fledgling indie outfit, the production quality and attention to detail Inertia have achieved here is almost staggering, with nary an illusion-breaking bug in sight, whilst everything has been thought through to give an overall rich and enjoyable experience.
Themed as a classic, old-timey adventure serial - complete with spiffingly British narrator and an affinity for alliteration (which can be toned down if the gusto gets your guts, though I’d advise averting your eyes if that’s the case) - Strange Brigade’s arcade action compiles and injects existing industry ideas with a persistent panache, shaking feelings of familiarity and raising a rip-roaring ride through 1930s Egypt.
Strange Brigade’s arcade action compiles and injects existing industry ideas with a persistent panache, shaking feelings of familiarity and raising a rip-roaring ride.
Though rifles are still very much present, here a more likely choice of primary weapon would be a shotgun or submachine gun, which can then be complemented by your choice of secondary firearm and thrown explosive. As you amass armfuls of gold throughout the course of any given level, you’ll also be able to roll the dice on a powerful prototype weapon - like an explosive crossbow or punch-packing blunderbuss - anonymously nestled within identifiable crates. These beefcakes have a limited ammo supply to counteract their immense strength, but perhaps more devastating are ultimate character abilities.
Unleashed after charging a magical amulet with the souls of defeated dastards, each brigadier has three additional bespoke abilities to unlock by collecting sets of relics generally hidden away within puzzle-gated nooks. These hidey-holes can also contain gems which slot into weapons to imbue them with passive buffs, allowing for easier crowd control and with that more efficient use of the booby traps that litter each uncharted environment.
Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the ins and outs of all the singular systems governing combat in Strange Brigade, there’s a real art to stringing everything together into one maintained and satisfying stream of destruction.
When you aren’t busy wreaking havoc, you’ll be exploring a range of lush, forgotten locales that are gorgeously vivid on Xbox One X. They’re surprisingly sprawling, often featuring multiple routes to your destination, all while the sounds of moving mechanisms and twinkling treasures beckon you to double back and scour every surface in search of secrets. The classic environmental enigmas you’ll uncover offer up tangible rewards and ensure that there’s reason to revisit the nine lengthy campaign missions in order to deeper delve their depths.
That said, before diving back into the campaign you’ll probably want to try your hand at the pair of accompanying modes in Score Attack and Horde. The former sees you undertake solo excursions on linear, re-purposed campaign sections whilst aiming to combo kills and satisfy a list of secondary challenges like beating par times and not taking damage. Think Mercenaries mode from more recent instalments of Resident Evil, but with greater consistency between runs to allow for really nailing the perfect strategy down.
Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the the singular systems governing combat, there’s a real art to stringing them together into one maintained stream of destruction.
Horde is almost what it says on the tin, only sharing more in common with Call of Duty’s fan favourite Zombies mode than Epic’s eponymous Gears of War 2 trendsetter. You’ll weather an insane undead onslaught across four exclusive maps that expand as waves progress, and also by your own hand, should you choose to spend gold on accessing new areas and their guaranteed goodies. Doing so isn’t exactly the no-brainer it sounds, as you’ll also need to piecemeal purchase a loadout having started with just a solemn sidearm.
This makes Horde a great place to experiment with new loadouts, which, coupled with a moving base of operations to prevent you from getting too comfortable in any one location, stops things growing stale as you’d otherwise be relying on the same old strategies across a whopping 75 total waves. That’s no small undertaking, so you can thankfully step away at any point and then pick back up from right around where you left off.
Weighing in at a reduced asking price, Strange Brigade feels anything but budget and features enough content that you might call it a steal. That’s certainly a relief, as outwardly it was easy to speculate that the Season Pass and its promise of new levels, characters and more might be required in compiling a complete package.
Strange Brigade bears its inspirations for all to see, but while many of the influential games and modes we’ve mentioned are overdone nowadays, Rebellion commit to their goofy theme with such enthusiasm that they’ve captured a formative time in cinema not previously brought to the medium with such verve. This unique sense of fun will make you nostalgic for a period you probably didn’t see, and by a long shot, while the copious conundrums make it an action co-op caper not quite like any other.
Ghost Town Games are back with a second helping of culinary chaos in Overcooked! 2, the highly anticipated sequel that builds upon the fibrous foundation of the original’s excellent multiplayer-focused action.
Shifting work surfaces, environmental hazards and the constant danger of fire mean assembling basic dishes becomes a considerable – and often hilarious – challenge.
Something that often caused ire amongst fans of the first title was the lack of online matchmaking, and, while it was commendable to encourage people to get together for some classic couch co-op, it’s something that, for many, is not always feasible. This had the potential to reduce Overcooked! to little more than a party game that ended up being shelved once everyone had gone home.
The inclusion of matchmaking in Overcooked! 2 is a most welcome addition then, but there is still a drawback. If you’ve got a couple of mates who own the game, then you’re all set – particularly if you’re playing the campaign, which allows a mix of local and online friends – but the seemingly small player base becomes a problem when trying to dip in and out of arcade or competitive modes for online sessions with strangers.
That said, while far from ideal, ending up on a lopsided team did lead to some spontaneous (and entertaining) acts of kindness, as ingredients were graciously chucked our way by a sympathetic opposition. Away from the generosity of strangers, there's always the extra avatar you’re given when you happen to be down a teammate, or just playing solo in general, allowing you to juggle tasks and somewhat (but not really) maintain the freneticism of co-op in your single-handed quest to maximise productivity.
The aforementioned campaign’s story is just as ludicrous as before, as players are once again tasked with saving the world through their cooking prowess, this time by satiating the hunger of the unbread – that’s zombie-like baked goods, in case you were wondering. The charming world map is back, and just as fun to career about in your miniature food truck - more so, in fact, thanks to some cool new vehicle animations - and hidden amongst the regular levels are bonus ones, earned through completing special challenges.
Things start off simple as players are eased into basic recipes, such as sushi, before being introduced to harder, more complicated dishes and kitchens that require serious skill to master. There are even a few set-pieces, bringing two levels (and their respective recipes) together at one point in a dramatic balloon crash.
Score requirements for stars have been increased, but, thanks to the new combo feature, built by sending out food in the correct order, reaching them isn’t as impossible a task as it may first seem. Even if you haven’t collected enough stars to unlock the next level, going back and mastering previous missions is all part of the fun.
Essentially, Overcooked! 2 is a more refined version of an already enjoyable product. Snappier menus, improved visuals and an all-round sleeker design help to give the game a premium feel that was absent from the original, and the much requested addition of online matchmaking will help breathe new life and longevity into the series for many people.
Having had the distinct pleasure of exclusively revealing the first glimpse of Warhammer: Vermintide 2 gameplay last October, the long wait for the first-person-shooter-come-brawler to arrive on console has been especially gruelling. Now that we’ve gotten our hands on it: was it worth the wait?
You’ll need to juggle priority targets and manage choke points as tidal waves of fetid flesh rage your way.
The level of customisation on offer gets altogether extensive when you also account for Vermintide 2’s loot and crafting systems. Taal’s Horn Keep serves as a sizeable hub area from which to launch your choice of the thirteen main missions, throughout which you can work towards satisfying daily challenges and career quests; completing these tasks awards the game’s strictly non-premium loot boxes, which rain a random array of weapons and gear that can be equipped to improve applicable characters, or, if you unbox a stinker, salvaged into materials used to craft new items and upgrades.
Refreshing a loadout can significantly impact how any given character plays, overhauling attributes and movesets, perhaps not always to your exact liking, but never compromising the viscerally satisfying core combat mechanics. Melee skirmishes can feel either hefty or agile, depending on your chosen armament, though always brutal as you gorily pop heads and lop limbs with each light or (particularly satisfying) charged heavy swing.
While mixing it up at close range you’ll need to be mindful to dodge and block incoming attacks from big bads, though opting for a character with more of a ranged combat style should keep you relatively out of harm's way to begin with. While letting loose with arrows, fireballs, bolts and bullets is good fun in itself, it’s almost a shame to snub one of the best first-person brawling systems around in favour of comparatively bog-standard blasting.
Still, variety is the spice of life, so mixing up your choice of hero whilst tackling repeat playthroughs of Vermintide 2’s semi-open levels - which accommodate multiple paths towards their culminating set-piece encounters, also randomising enemy and item spawns along the way - ensures things remain engaging. Throw in the lure of greater rewards when progressing to higher difficulty levels, as well as unobtrusive storytelling that allows players to easily consume their desired dose of action, and you have a package that’ll keep you busy for a good length of time.
Vermintide 2 is more in-depth than its peers in many ways, but retains the central simplicity that makes this brand of onslaught adventure so frantic and exciting. Doing so at native 4K resolution on Xbox One X, while mostly maintaining a solid frame rate, at no additional cost to Game Pass subscribers, makes for an experience that you (and preferably some friends) shouldn’t hesitate to get stuck into.
Yes, Earthfall does look a lot like Left 4 Dead. In fact, the comparison is welcomed by developers Holospark and something that they strived for as their key inspiration and focus. “We loved Left 4 Dead” said CEO Rusty Williams, when we spoke to him at EGX Rezzed earlier this year, “but we wanted more.” So, after a few years of development, including time in early access on PC, Earthfall is the end result.
While the presentation gets a solid “good” - Unreal Engine 4 would struggle to make a game look bad - it’d be nice to see a bit more fidelity in those textures (perhaps an Xbox One X update looms in the future?) and the game isn’t without some technical issues. We’ve seen a couple of crashes when things get especially hectic, plus the friendly AI more than once has stood in place, staring frantically into space as the rest of their team gets mauled around the corner.
In terms of level design, something so tightly managed in Valve and Turtle Rocks’ original, there are oversights too, with invisible walls being used to channel the player into a linear flow through areas which look as though they should be ripe to explore. Furthermore, giving players an objective marker to head for often makes the campaign feel like a pedestrian trudge between two points, rather than four survivors scraping together what they can in a desperate effort to survive.
It’s here we really must broach the subject of AI. Players can either run through levels with allied bots or open up proceedings to being joined by human players online, as in L4D, but the AI in question doesn’t have the same concern for your wellbeing as it did in that game, frequently leaving you to bleed out whilst prioritising reviving fellow bots and often snatching up helpful items and weapons from under your nose.
If they were able to trigger objectives or be commanded in any way they might be more useful, but they aren’t even fans of deploying barriers or using mounted guns, which can be an issue at some of the game’s choke points, referred to in-game as ‘holdouts’. You can punch up the AI ‘skill’ to limited results, only really boosting accuracy and the eagerness to shoot first and ask questions later. But hey, at least there’s no risk of incurring significant friendly fire damage from them.
Earthfall is difficult in general, with even two players experienced in working and communicating with one another, bolstered by a couple of filler bots, seeing the ‘Normal’ difficulty setting pose a serious threat. While the higher difficulties are a stretch, the ‘Easy’ level can at times be too much its namesake, making you long for a shuffle to give a happy medium.
With only two campaigns of five twenty-or-so-minute chapters a piece, you might find Earthfall a tad pricey at £24.99, since it’s inspiration gave us double the number of iconic campaigns and an additional competitive mode, which is conspicuously absent here at present. That said, the team at Holospark are already hard at work on further campaign content which will be released free to all players (cosmetic customisation items are premium), so there’s some added value to look forward to in the future.
One particularly fun element, which pushes the suspension of disbelief in a very different direction than accepting aliens are a thing, is the fact that many levels are peppered with 3D printers to requisition guns and health stations reminiscent of Half-Life. A great idea, which could have been taken further to include attachments and further customisations, as the risk/reward mechanic whenever you encounter them (turning the power on to use them will attract a mob) is always compelling.
Though it might not be Left 4 Dead 3, Earthfall does enough to scratch the itch for players pining for a similar experience. With games developing far more post-launch than ever before it seems likely this one will continue to mutate to the needs of its player base, which doesn’t undo the fact it could have used slightly longer in the oven before final release, but what’s on offer so far is ruddy good fun, if a tad disposable.
Imagine being dropped into the blazing Egyptian desert with just a baseball cap, a lumberjack shirt and… a potato launcher. Well, now you can face that reality, as developer Crema’s twitchy first-person pyramid-crawler, Immortal Redneck, breathes a colourful, comical breath of life into the old school, arcade shooter genre.
Standing boldly between you and bragging rights are a dastardly array of enemies that range from lava-belching toads to floating skulls.
To combat these blighters you’ll have to rely on two things - your rapidly twerking thumbs and a suite of over 50 inventive weapons, found scattered across each of the floors you’ll navigate en route to the Apex. Our hillbilly hero begins with just a basic pistol, but can uncover anything from an electric flamethrower to a wololo staff (you can decide what that means). Each weapon will put a massive smile on the face of any arcade action fan; the shotgun blast is suitably explosive, machine guns are frantic and noisy, and Grampa’s Blunderbuss is simply a great name.
With all that awesome firepower, it’s a shame the environments themselves contribute little to the overall experience. Despite doing their job in offing up mythical monsters aplenty, plus accommodating hunts for crazy weapons and madman levels of strafing, areas come up short. They start out large and sprawling, like an Egyptian multi-storey car park, and narrow as the difficulty spikes, with the only real design variation being a few random platforms, more ramps and a few spread out pillars. Alas, that’s the inherent danger in opting for procedural generation over human craftsmanship.
It goes without saying that fans of Serious Sam, Timesplitters and DOOM will no doubt find a familiar home in Immortal Redneck, but those who crave a more narrative-driven experience may find that they get bored long before they ultimately reach the Apex. Even then, it could prove fun to dip in and out of whenever you fancy getting some sand between your toes, and, of course, kicking seven shades out of cute looking rattlesnakes with a taser sword.
ONRUSH isn’t your typical arcade racer, in fact, it’s not really a racing game at all. You don’t win by being the first to cross a finish line, and you generally don’t want to be ahead of the pack, but rather in the thick of its metallic stampede of destruction. Inspired by class-based multiplayer shooters like Overwatch, you and five teammates - be they human or CPU - will cooperate to achieve victory across four unique, objective-based game modes.
You don’t win by being the first to cross a finish line, and you generally don’t want to be ahead of the pack, but rather in the thick of its metallic stampede of destruction.
This means ONRUSH moves with a breakneck pace and a tense sense of danger, though you haven’t seen the best of it yet. Utilising boost and playing to the strengths of your chosen class of vehicle, be that by supporting teammates or bulldozing competitors, will gradually charge the Rush meter and eventually allow you to unleash an ultimate ability unique to your equipped off-roader. You’ll always rocket forwards at blistering speed, bonnet combusting and screaming vocals kicking in as you go, though you might also leave a damaging trail in your wake, debuff enemies, buff teammates, or eliminate foes as if they were Fodder.
Rush can generally be utilised a few times throughout the course of a match, often proving a tide-turning highlight, especially if coordinated with teammates. This and its audiovisuals make it true to its name, though ONRUSH is no presentational slouch in general; the high energy soundtrack and punky neon visuals, beautifully enhanced with 4K and HDR support on Xbox One X, quickly serve to get your adrenaline pumping.
That’s true across any of the four game types we alluded to earlier, which offer novel interpretations of some familiar favourites. Overdrive is the premier mode and tasks you with stringing boost chains to score the most points; Countdown sees you pass through gates to top up a depleting timer and outlast the opposition; Lockdown spawns a moving capture point for your team to occupy; while Switch gives each driver three lives and forces them to swap vehicle as they’re expended, with the first team to fully deplete their supply losing. Each event is split into rounds and each victory earns the relevant side a tally in a best of series, contributing a sporting feel and accommodating rousing comebacks.
Events can unfold very differently depending on your approach - for example playing the evasive survival game on a bike in Switch, rather than going on the offensive and doing work as a heavy - and you’re afforded the opportunity to spawn in a new class of vehicle after wrecking in most competitions, presenting the opportunity to tweak strategy and balance team composition on the fly.
Superstar, the game’s career equivalent, sees you climb the ranks of the fledgling ONRUSH scene in pursuit of the tantalising Founders’ Trophy. It’s a journey punctuated by zany cutscenes that can be taken in solo or co-op, with each event - or multi-event series - carrying its own set of challenges to complete in order to earn points and work your way up to the more difficult stages, which incorporate complex tracks alongside different lighting and seasonal effects.
ONRUSH moves with a breakneck pace and a tense sense of danger.
It shouldn’t be too long before you get your mitts on that trophy, which leaves you with single events to consume solo/cooperative/competitive until Ranked play is added at a later date. While we can’t speak for Ranked, naturally, casual online events pad player counts with bots and rotate game types between matches to nix lobbies and keep things moving along nicely. If you’ve been playing solo, it’s also great to finally get some use out of the quick chat system and implement advanced strategies with human players.
Coordinate well and you’ll rack up the wins, earning bonus XP as your reward. Each level gained in ONRUSH grants a Gear Crate, which is essentially a loot box, but don’t panic too much, as they’re free from the shackles of the microtransaction machine. They cough up three random cosmetic items when opened, tiered by rarity, with the better quality stuff not really being held back. You can receive duplicates, which are converted into an in-game currency that can then be put towards something of your choosing.
Credits can also be gathered by completing profile objectives and Daily Quests, which you’ll probably want to keep on top of, as there’s a serious volume of sweet stuff for your bikes, cars and avatars.
While daily tasks might draw you back in for a session here and there, ONRUSH doesn’t have a huge breadth of content, unless we’re purely talking cosmetics. If you aren’t looking to fully stock your wardrobe, the white-knuckle action that’s here is modern, unique, characterful and social all at once, making every effort to remove barriers to entry and offer relentless entertainment - which it does, for a time.
EVERSPACE finally made its way to PlayStation 4 this week, both standalone and bundled with a few extra goodies in the Stellar Edition; whichever version might take you fancy, picking up ROCKFISH Games’ space-faring roguelike is an easy recommendation.
EVERSPACE has a more developed narrative than we’ve experienced in any other roguelike.
As such, it’s important to pick your battles by keeping a distance and utilising stealth where you can. Entering into a smart engagement - isolating enemies, prioritising targets, managing your shield and knowing when to retreat - can be the difference between life and death. It is possible to play too cautiously though, as you’ll need fuel to safely progress between areas and additional resources both to repair your ship and craft or upgrade items, all of which are dropped by defeated enemies.
Valuable resources can also be gathered from mining spots and containers, or purchased via ports and traders, though a looming threat ensures that you can’t spend too long scouring any one area for booty. Enemy fleets will spawn and hunt you down should you allow them to triangulate your position, meaning you’ll need to keep a considered pace at all times.
You’re sure to meet an early grave with so much working against you, which, as you may have already gleaned from our earlier mention of runs - you clever thing, you - will set you back to square one. Permadeath can be a scary concept, but EVERSPACE boasts extensive persistent progression that’ll help to make losing a time investment actually feel productive.
Any credits you earn during a run can be siphoned into a vast range of useful perks and upgrades, or even additional ships, though you have to spend what you’ve gathered before redeploying. Not allowing players to save towards more expensive purchases might seem unnecessarily harsh, but this simple tweak ensures you’re always heading back out into the unknown vastness of space with an added in-game advantage and a little extra motivation to hit your desired figure this time around.
Permadeath can be a scary concept, but EVERSPACE boasts extensive persistent progression that’ll help to make losing a time investment actually feel productive.
If EVERSPACE is sounding too difficult for you, then opting for the easy difficulty setting is the way to go. It’ll tip the scales in your favour while docking 25% of your earnings, slowing the upgrade process in order to maintain balance. Similarly, the elite can opt for hard mode and boost their income by 25%, whilst the dangerous can ‘enjoy’ a separate Hardcore game type that eliminates persistent forms of progression whilst throwing you the odd bone.
Whatever way you play, procedural generation will keep things varied and interesting between runs, subtly randomising area layouts and spawns. More significant are the occasional prerequisite area objectives and visually stunning weather anomalies that impact play, while the Encounters expansion (included in the Stellar Edition) makes an even greater impact by introducing numerous random character encounters that blossom into persistent quest lines.
Not only that, but Encounters adds a powerful new ship with an arcing lightning cannon and disabling EMP blast, loads more gear to kit yourself out with, new enemies to test everything out on, and even more, all while seamlessly integrating into the base game experience. It’s a no-brainer at just £7.99, which means the same can be said of the Stellar Edition, which offers a couple of premium themes and a digital soundtrack at no additional cost to buying EVERSPACE and Encounters separately.
Its sharp assets and striking juxtaposition of colours make the game really quite beautiful, especially on Pro hardware, where players can enjoy checkerboard 4K as well as the standard HDR support. Really then, EVERSPACE - Stellar Edition is the full package: challenging, tactical, highly customisable, rewarding, almost endless, and pretty darn gorgeous.
Unless you’re averse to taking to the skies, or refuse to succumb to your mortality at the hands of permadeath, you won’t regret climbing aboard the good (space)ship roguelike.
Space gets a bad rap. For a locale which, in reality, is largely empty space; film, TV and particularly video games have taught us that the great unknown is filled only with baddies who want to fire laser weapons at us (pew pew!)
A game steeped in the ever-present nostalgia factor with a few fresh ideas thrown in for good measure.
Such thrills are fairly short-lived on their own, but, if you keep an eye out, you can often string powerups together so your buffs keep the pressure on the enemy.
If it all sounds like a cheerful way to spend some times, particularly on the move with the portable powers of the Switch, then you’re in luck, as the game is fairly easy to pause at almost any point and jump in and out of. If you’re looking for something more however, you may wish there was a little more variety to its gameplay.
There are 12 levels on offer, split into five areas, but you’d be hard pressed to tell each of them apart at first glance, aside from a different vibe from the games authentically 8-bit soundtrack for each. Difficulty builds fairly gradually and increasingly you’ll find you’re taking hits from what you thought was just ship detail below but turned out to be a hull-mounted bomb or gun emplacement. The odd cheap shot here and there is understandable, with so much going on, but at times your health will take a huge hit in seconds when several dangers converge.
Of course, the challenge is part of the appeal, and your squishy health bar remains visible at the bottom of the screen at all times, reminding you of the impending doom. In fact, when your health hits that critical final square there’s even a stylish slowdown effect to alert you to that fact without peppering the screen with ‘helpful’ voiceover from some unseen supervisor back on Earth or a teammate that won’t shut up (we’re looking at you Slippy.)
After the main game’s first run, there’s a few things to go back to. Each level has five optional objectives, some of which you’ll probably stumble across as you play, such as the perpetual “Kill all four alienoids”, but others will require more strategic action.
Then there’s also survive and boss modes for each level, which are exactly what they sound like, but neither really do much to remix and change up gameplay. Speaking of mixing, the game’s Xbox version has a particular tie-in with streaming service Mixer, which sees the audience capable of sabotaging the player by introducing enemies and generally making life difficult, but whether that would be something you’d like to subject yourself to/rise to the challenge of, is for you to decide.
The end result is a game steeped in the ever-present nostalgia factor with a few fresh ideas thrown in for good measure. To really blow us away it would have been nice to see the game break the mould a bit more, but for many a title which makes retro-style games accessible, and slightly more forgiving, to younger audiences and new players is no bad thing.
Having started life as a free-to-play mobile title under the guise of Ace Academy: Skies of Fury, Illumination Games and Seed Interactive’s WW1 air combat game recently made its console debut on the Nintendo Switch.
The bold visuals help give the game plenty of character as you dogfight over the patchwork fields below and fly through giant, marshmallow clouds so thick you could seemingly hop out and walk on them.
There are optional challenges similar to the Halo series’ skulls that can be applied pre-mission to help add some level of difficulty to proceedings, without proving insurmountable, whilst the only significant downside is that you’re less likely to earn loot boxes that contain new plane skins and alternate reticule designs as you won’t be earning EXP as quickly.
Skies of Fury’s campaign is broken up into five chapters, with missions split between German and British forces. Completing all of the missions in a chapter sees you rewarded with a fresh set of comic strips that convey the game’s narrative.
As you progress, you’re also given skill points to pick out new passive abilities to mitigate/increase incoming/outgoing damage such as faster health regeneration, larger magazines and a deadlier special attack. Another cool feature is the ability to snap up your AI allies as wingmen, adding their firepower to yours for greater damage whilst simultaneously acting as shields against incoming attacks.
Despite the sheer number of missions available, it becomes obvious very early on that there’s a distinct lack of variety between them, with the game recycling the same dogfight, escort missions and bizarre time trials that require you to fly through a series of hoops over and over again. In addition to the lack of objective variety, no voice acting means there’s no real difference when playing as either a German or British pilot, save for the names and livery of the planes.
Given the nature of its setting, it would have been nice to see some sort of trench-based reconnaissance or attack missions included, which the narrative suggests played an important role in the build up to the Battle of Arras. It feels like a missed opportunity considering this is supposed to be a more substantial offering than the mobile original.
Yes, there’s local multiplayer and a new survival mode which can be played cooperatively (also only locally), but the overall lack of extra polish when it comes to the game’s focal point - the campaign - drags Skies of Fury DX’s otherwise fairly enjoyable arcade action back down to Earth.