Imagine an alternate universe, very much like our own, only not. In this reality there is currently a war raging in which you the player take on the role of a heroic pilot behind the flight yoke of a selection of planes and get involved in a series of dogfights, bombing runs or even both at the same time.
Story wise, the long and short of it is that you are transported to an alternate universe. I think this has been done to steer the game away from the allied forces versus the Nazis, in an attempt to keep the game focused on the fun side of things rather than the serious. However it is pretty easy to see that the game is based on this conflict judging by the designs of the flags, banners and vehicles on the ground. But the fact that they have made it in the alternate reality really works because the game is amazingly fun to play. The game has a wide selection of missions that range from full on dogfights to defending bombers, flying those bombers while taking out ground based targets and a few other things in between, more of which in a moment.
The style and gameplay again is simple but a lot of fun. Things play out like a side scrolling shooter but, unlike the majority of shooters in this style, there is more to it than up, down, left, right and fire. Sure, in general you move from the left of the screen to the right with your left analogue stick controlling your plane. The controls themselves are a little strange to describe, however they do work well. You can flip and turn your plane all over the screen simply by using the stick. At first you think it’s a case of your plane going in the direction you push the stick, and in a way it is, but it depends on what you are doing with your plane at the time and how it is affected by gravity. Your plane can only climb so high before making its way back to the ground. Tapping the square face button also flips your plane, so you fly upside down. I have yet to find a use for this other than having fun. It also means you can not drop any bombs.
The handling of planes and the combat controls also differ depending on which of the three planes in the game you are using at the time. The small fighter plane which is very nimble and quick to manoeuvre, with a single forward firing machine gun is ideal for taking out enemy fighters in the fast action dogfights but is not the best choice when it comes to taking out ground based targets, relying on a grenade or two dropped from the cockpit by the pilot with a tap of the R2 button. Weapon upgrades can of course be collected throughout stages, earned mostly by shooting down parachuting pilots as they eject from their destroyed planes, giving both guns and bombs a temporary boost in effectiveness.
The next plane up sacrifices a bit of that nimble manoeuvring ability in exchange for both front and rear firing guns, which are controlled with the right stick by basically pointing in the direction you wish to fire, and improved bombing abilities. Gone are the grenades which are replaced with actual bombs. A lot more powerful but the re-fire rate of these in this craft is a few seconds, so they must be well aimed. The third and final craft available to you is the bomber, a huge beast that lumbers through the sky losing all the quick aeronautical stunts and flips. In fact it is a struggle at times to move up and down in this beast. It has the front and rear firing guns of the previous plane but also has the ability to carpet bomb ground targets with a series of five or six bombs dropped one after the other.
You do not get to choose which one you want to fly for each mission. At the beginning of each stage a plane is assigned to the player depending on the job at hand. Talking of the missions, they are varied enough so that you are not carrying out the same tasks over and over again. Things start off with relatively simple dogfights where you have to shoot down so many enemy planes along with bombing one or two small ground targets. It’s not long however before you are being tasked with bombing enemy basses or vehicle convoys, before moving onto moving targets such as a heavily armoured and armed train or fleets of ships, or another night time mission where you in a fighter plane providing cover for two huge bombers in a night time bombing run, requiring you not only to take out enemy planes but also spotlights on the ground which pick out your bombers so that their AA guns can target you.
This variety in missions helps stop the game becoming a boring repetitive affair. Although the core gameplay remains the same, it’s always throwing something new at you to help keep things interesting and fun. As for a challenge, you need not worry as there are three difficulty settings which can be selected from at the beginning of each stage. The easiest is perfect for casual gameplay and anyone with a bit of skill will be able to progress through the game. But even switching up to medium difficulty, you will find much more of a challenge and will likely require you to attempt certain missions more than a few times to get through them. As for the toughest difficulty setting, I have not even attempted this yet, but I can only imagine the challenge that it has in store. On top of all this, you can recruit a friend to sit alongside you to take part in the local multiplayer campaign in which the two of you can take the fight to the bad guys, side by side. This does make the missions a little easier and things do get a little competitive between the players, but in a good way. It adds to the fun as you both chase the same kills.
Presentation wise, it’s tough to fault the game. The graphics, although not quite realistic, they are not cartoon like either, almost a meeting of the two. The play area itself is pretty large, with your plane being relatively small, giving plenty of room to pull off flips and loops and ensuring there is loads of space for fighting as you soar through the skies over the nice bright green countryside and open seas. The sound likewise is pretty good with plane engines, guns, bombs and explosions all accompanied with a rather jolly, early jazz soundtrack that you can imagine people dancing the Charleston to. Despite what you may think, this does not really get on your nerves like many other smaller games. Rather it is actually quite jolly and keeps a smile on your face throughout the killing and destruction.
SkyFighter is a fun game to pick up and play for small game sessions. If you are looking for a side scrolling shooter with a little more to it than your usual fare, plenty of variety in the missions and difficulty settings set towards the higher end of the scale, it will provide even the most experienced gamer with a decent and challenging arcade shooting game. If this sounds like the kind of game you are looking for, then you can pick it up right now from the PSN Store for some aerial based shooting fun. And fun it is.