There’s a plethora of good – and bad – vertical shooters on the AppStore, with standouts including Siberian Strike, Roswell and of course the bullet hell of Espgaluda 2. Apart from Espgaluda, they generally all try and capture the glory of classics such as 1942 – with even Capcom themselves recently retreading these war torn waters.
Sky Combat then is nothing original. However, it is the level of polish to this shooter that ensures it’s up there with the best.
You take control of a helicopter gunship for the majority of the game, as you take on wave after wave of enemy gunships, tanks, warships and many more. But what mixes things up is the addition of both tank and boat missions. The tank in particular is sluggish in comparison, and because of this offers up the bulk of the challenge.
Levels are your standard fair of wave based enemy attacks, culminating in a boss battle. These bosses are giant vehicles with multiple weak points and attacks patterns. Designed to whittle down what little health you may have left.
Your gunship comes with a standard machine gun which, through power-ups, can be upgraded with more power and a wider field of attack. Rockets are also available, but are more scarce, with you generally saving these for the boss encounters. A particularly cool air strike attack allows you to take out everything on screen at once, much like a smart bomb, but again you’ll want to save these for when the game gets too hectic.
Two defensive strategies are also available, for dealing with rocket attacks. One makes your gunship rise up (kinda like a jump), and can be activated by flicking the device upwards or through an onscreen button. The second sends out a shockwave to destroy the rockets as they home in on you. Both of these require powering up before use, which stops you from using too frequently.
Controls are generally good, but the button placement for secondary weapons and defence can be hard to reach, particularly if you prefer to play these games with a single thumb. You end up then using a mix of one and two handed control.
I love the look and feel of this game. Don’t expect any fancy pants 3D here, but what you do get is detailed 2D art for both the backgrounds and the vehicles (reminding me a little of the excellent 16bit classic S.W.I.V). Little details like the shimmering sea and the way the rockets home in towards you with a tail of smoke add to the experience greatly. The sound effects also play a big part in this, the bangs and swooshes of enemies and their weapons help hammer home the intensity of war. However, while the music is suitable, it gets a little repetitive.
Overall the campaign will take you a few hours, with it increasing as you up the difficulty level. Once you have beaten four missions, an endless mode is unlocked. Just like it says on the tin, this mode throws a limitless amount of weapons at you. Thankfully it is equally generous with power ups too. This mode is fast and intense and a great means of blowing off some steam.
As I said before, Sky Combat does nothing new. It is, however, a great example of the genre. Any fan of arcade shooters won’t want to miss it.