Gamble pays off
‘Sky Gamblers: Storm Raiders’ is the first arcade flight game I’ve played which makes me want to immediately try flying a plane. Now we’ve all played racing games that have given us the itch to jump in our Bugatti Veyron’s and speed down to Tesco, or perhaps after playing Modern Combat 4 you’ve had to resist the urge to grab a few grenades (you know, the ones you have lying round in the laundry) and lob them into air to see what happens. But Sky Gamblers makes me want to get into the cockpit of an aircraft not so much because of the game’s action – although it is great – but simply because of it’s controls.
It offers such an impressive range of input methods to get up in the air that I swear I could easily do it for real. You’ve got a good mix of accelerometer and virtual sticks; enough to cater to every play type, and curiously, enough that you want to give the others a try even if you’ve found the one that suits you, simply because you’re intrigued.
So after a thorough tutorial taking you through taking off and landing, the HUD, plane controls, battle and squad commands, you instantly feel like you could fire up a Boeing 747 and be on your way (please don’t). You might even feel a bit intimidated by the sheer volume of info necessary to play, but everything combines in the end to feel pretty natural. Well, it does after a while: be careful not to hold your device at a strange angle when the game starts as it auto-calibrates, meaning that the plane will recognise as level however you’re holding it. Bad news for those who like to play upside down then.
Out on the skies (or should that be in the skies?), ‘Sky Gamblers’ is lovely. First off, it’s a real graphical treat: aircraft are detailed (the cockpit view is particularly impressive), flying over the varied terrain such as fields and small towns is a brilliant sensation you’ll want to repeat –a fact the developers are all too aware of as they’ve included a free flight mode – even the HUD is sharp and pretty. This game also has some of the most impressive water I’ve seen in an iOS game. It almost makes you want to fly straight into it.
Other visual effects include the screen cracking under the stress of enemy bullets, real time damage to your aircraft ( it’s tempting to not fight back when getting attacked just to see how your plane reacts), and a brilliant autopilot mode which controls your plane’s movement while you focus on weapons. What’s great about it is the camera decides to show the game off by positioning itself in the most cinematic perspective possible. It may not be the most accurate in order to complete missions, but hey, it’s sexy.
It’s not a perfect performance graphically though. Understandably, concessions have to be made, and textures on grass and buildings are fuzzy when up close. There’s also no animation for crashing into water or earth; the game simply resets your last position. See? Flying a plane is easy!
You’ll be given a good quantity of missions in single player (where a couple of grammatical errors stand out in the briefings), which mainly involve what you’d want them to: shooting down enemy planes. You’ve also got a squadron which you can set in a neutral, offensive or defensive formations which adds some strategy to the mix, as well as finally teaching me what the term ‘Wingman’ means. I thought it was all about helping your mate hook up with a cute girl at a club. Who knew?
It can sometimes be hard to lock on to enemies during these World War 2 era missions, and at times you’ll be flying round in circles trying to locate the rival aircraft that always seems just out of your reach, but this is down to your own skill more than anything. It never feels unfair, and only motivates you to master it. When you do manage to perform some mid-air acrobatics, get behind an enemy and blow them out the sky, you’ll understand what satisfaction means. You could also find that information from a dictionary, but this is more fun.
Single player is stacked with modes you’d normally find in a multiplayer mode: Free For All, Last Man Standing, CTF and Team Deathmatch. Add these bot- populated modes to the classic campaign missions as well as a wave based survival mode and you’ve got a lot of content here.
And of course, this isn’t even mentioning the actual multiplayer mode. Everything you’d expect is here, including all the above game modes and voice chat. It may not have the deep ‘One-billion-attachments-and-counting’ customization of something like Modern Combat, but there’s surely enough here to keep you ruling the skies for a heck of a long time.
There’s definitely enough here to make me give up on the frankly ridiculous idea of me piloting a Boeing 747 and get stuck into this instead. Of course I’m not going to ever fly a Boeing. It’s a preposterous idea. Silly. Stupid.
I’m going to track down a World War Two era Fighter Bomber and fly that instead. Bravo Sky Gamblers!
Any pilots on Twitter? Track down Kevin @KevThePen