In the words of Tom Cruise: “I feel the need. The need for Speed.”
This is actually the second game under the Sky Gamblers name, Sky Gamblers: Rise of glory was released late last year and put you in control of a variety of classic fighter planes from The Great War (WW1). It was a competent dog fighting game, but didn’t leave a lasting impression on me.
It surprised me then to learn that a new Sky Gamblers game was coming out, and in time to show off the new found power in the latest iPad (3rd generation iPad). I was a little worried that we’d get more of the same of the first game. But after seeing it in action on Apple’s Keynote video-feed, it looked impressive – particularly the amount of enemies on screen at once.
Of course, we’ve seen many game companies trick us with such demos in the past, but imagine my surprise later in the game to see a sky full of enemies and the seas strewn with battle ships and subs. It’s an impressive sight to be sure.
Sky Gamblers revolves around a story involving a missing fighter that had something secret onboard. Told using graphic novel-like cut scenes, you are sent to investigate. From there you get caught up in a story involving a mystery enemy, and a secret group of elite fighter pilots called the Sky Gamblers.
The story, though interesting, is simply a tool to tie the dog fighting based levels together, you’ll no doubt find yourself skipping these to get to the action… And the action isn’t far away.
After a handy tutorial segment outlining the various control options, it’s time to hit the skies. Controls are broken down into casual and simulator options. Casual gives you far less direct control of your fighter plane, mixing both yaw and turning together, which limits advanced turns and rolls. You can choose from accelerometer and control pad, with the control pad giving a more arcade like feel. It might be easier for the majority of players, but for the most realistic experience you should opt for accelerometer.
Better still, try out the simulator option. Here you gain far more control over your plane. Here a virtual joystick is used for controlling speed and yaw, and when combined with accelerometer, allows you to perform faster dives, climbs, rolls and loops. Essential for the more demanding dog fights.
Strangely, the defaults for pitch are flipped the wrong way. Tilting your device downwards should always execute a dive, while tilting back should execute a climb – just like with a real flight stick. So, first thing to do if using the simulator option is to flip ‘em.
Weapon controls are nicely arranged around your H.U.D. from which you can switch between machine gun, and missiles with ease. Opposite to weapons is a button to deploy flares – no not 70s-era jeans, the anti missile variety!
Once you have the controls down, you can hit up the many game modes. There’s the story mode – which offers up a great selection of challenges, from taking out ground defences, waves of enemy fighters, and even sea-based objectives – such as aircraft carries, battleships and submarines.
Beyond the story mode – which I’d say gives you a good 4-5 hours of play – there are also a few more single player challenges that await. Most impressive of these is a mammoth slog through 100 dog fights. Depending on skill, each of these can be completed pretty quickly, and are perfect for a quick fix of arial action. Completing all 100 though will take some practice.
In addition to the dog fight mode, there is a survival mode. This is a straight-up arcade fare, where you must survive an onslaught of wave-after-wave of fighters.
Finally, there’s multiplayer. While the story mode gives you instant thrills and ramping difficulty, it’s the online mode which puts your skills fully to the test. The usual suspects are on offer: Free for all; Team Death-match; Capture the flag; and Defend the base – it says defend, but I found that most people head straight to the opponents base to attack. So it’s more about who can get to each others bases first and take out the objectives.
Each mode allows for up to 8 players to fight it out. So, while it doesn’t offer up the excitement of the crowded skies of single player, it’s offset by the added intelligence of real players.
No doubt the main draw for this game being downloaded will be for it’s graphics. This is for good reason too, it runs super smooth and includes lots of special effects – particularly on the new iPad (3rd generation). An impressive draw distance, lens flare, bloom lighting, heat haze and real-time shadows – to name but few – add up to a great looking game – which in some case rivals that of H.A.W.X on 360.
Having said that, it’s not consistently good to look at. Like most flight games, things start to look less than stellar as you approach the ground. When you first take off you’d be forgiven for thinking that this game’s graphics aren’t all they’re hyped up to be. But once you are above 4000ft, everything looks peachy.
One of the coolest elements in the game though has to be the missile chase-cam. Continue to hold down the missile button as you fire, and the camera will follow the missile until it finds its target – or until you release your finger. It’s too good an opportunity to miss, even if it does come at the expense of you crashing your plane.
I was surprised how feature rich and fun Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy is. It wasn’t the rush-to-market demo for the next iPad I thought it would be. Instead, it’s a rip roaring, action packed ride. It puts realism firmly on the back seat in favour of thrills, and in doing so becomes somewhat of a spiritual successor to Afterburner. Great fun.
Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy is out now as a universal app for $4.99. Get it on the