Review – Red Wings: Aces of the Sky

We don’t see a lot of games based off World War I. Especially since, unlike its “successor”, this isn’t exactly a conflict with defined good guys and bad guys. It was one gigantic mess, in which nations all decided to pick fights with everyone else due to accumulated tension and a lack of a UN-like organization to try to intervene and avoid bigger repercussions. With that being said, if there’s one thing that’s extremely iconic from World War I, besides gloomy trench battles, it’s the image of Fokker aircrafts mowing down dozens of rival airplanes over the blue skies of France, introducing the world to the concept of aerial warfare. Red Wings: Aces of the Sky tries to recreate that specific scenario.

2020052123553700-77B27D8A047E267FEA02B842DD85DCD3

You can do a barrel roll, but it just doesn’t feel the same without a drunken rabbit telling you to do so.

If you’re used to more realistic aerial combat games like Ace Combat or the convoluted control schemes from the Battlefield games, you might find Red Wings: Aces of the Sky‘s gameplay a bit too, let’s say, “unrealistic”. This game is clearly inspired by more arcade-friendly aerial combat games out there, namely Star Wars: Rogue Squadron. If you know me, you might know that its Gamecube sequel, Rogue Leader, is actually one of my favorite games of all tim. I can’t describe how much I enjoyed Red Wings‘ gameplay as a result.

The control scheme is simple enough. You have a machine gun with unlimited ammo, but prone to overheating. You don’t have any other kind of weaponry besides the pistol you’re carrying in your pocket, which can be used every now and then to perform a finishing blow on a weakened opponent. Besides this, you can perform barrel rolls, a very fast u-turn, and also call in your squadmates to aim at and weaken enemies in front of you. All of these special abilities can be used whenever their icons are filled. That’s basically a summary of the gameplay, as there isn’t much more going on in here besides the fact you need to keep an eye on your health and fuel gauges, which can be refilled by flying through a golden ring located in the middle of the levels. Realism be damned, but that’s not an issue at all.

2020052123575300-77B27D8A047E267FEA02B842DD85DCD3

When you see that skull icon, that means you can kill the pilot with a pistol. I don’t get the purpose behind this, but hey, it looks cool!

Red Wings‘ missions are short and occasionally a bit too repetitive, but they’re a perfect fit for the Switch’s portable nature. They are mostly comprised of shooting down enemy fighters in a small arena or defending your allies by shooting down enemy fighters in a small arena. There is also a survival mode in which you shoot down enemy fighters in a small arena. Whenever the game just lets you loose and become a portable Red Baron, it’s great. Whenever it tries to spice things up with time trial challenges comprised of flying through rings, for instance, it falls flat.

It also features two storylines, one for the Triple Alliance and one for the Triple Entente. While I do appreciate the effort, as well as the fact that there are even a few fully voiced cutscenes, I can’t say I cared at all about the fact the game featured a plot. The mission structure is perfectly crafted for short bursts, letting you acquire upgrade points the faster you complete each level, and the backgrounds are very repetitive. So the more you treat Red Wings as a pure arcade title, the more you’ll have with it.

Game structure aside, I also appreciated its presentation. I am relieved that the developers didn’t try to go for a fully realistic and excessively gritty graphical style. Instead, Red Wings features subtle cel-shaded textures, making its world a lot more colorful and visually pleasing, even though nothing in it can be described as “polygonally detailed”. It also runs pretty well on the Switch, especially in portable mode. The sound design is also charming, although not exactly memorable. Whenever you’re in a menu, you’re greeted to 1910’s jazz standards, and whenever you’re in a mission, the developers try to crank things up to eleven with Hans Zimmer-esque scores.

2020052123402400-77B27D8A047E267FEA02B842DD85DCD3

What a beautiful day to ruin some lives.

I don’t think I would have enjoyed Red Wings: Aces of the Sky if I had played anywhere else but the Switch. Its arcade-like controls inspired by Rogue Squadrion, short missions, and excellent survival mode are a perfect fit for a portable system. I can’t say I cared at all about the two different stories it tried to tell at the same time, but it won me over with how fun it is to play it for hours on end. At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.

 

Graphics: 7.5

The repetitive backgrounds aren’t anything special, but the game’s cel-shaded visuals and excellent performance, even in portable mode, more than make up for that issue.

Gameplay: 8.5

Very reminiscent of the classic Rogue Squadron games, but with some quality of life improvements to bring the gameplay to modern standards.

Sound: 7.0

It’s competent and charming, considering its setting. It features some very old jazz standards whenever you’re in a menu, and it features some war-like scores when you’re in battle. It’s not memorable, but it works.

Fun Factor: 8.5

Some missions are a bit bland and repetitive, and I couldn’t care less about the story, but the overall arcadey gameplay loop is a fantastic fit for a portable system like the Switch. The survival mode is also very addictive.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Red Wings: Aces of the Sky is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Red Wings: Aces of the Sky was provided by the publisher.

Advertisements