Sometimes you need to play a game that is all about blazing guns, big explosions and little else. For your intrepid reviewer, Sky Force Reloaded fitted the bill, because its all about killing things. Scratch that, Sky Force Reloaded is all about killing a lot of things.
A top down scrolling traditional shoot ’em up, with a great mix of old style 2D sprites alongside some 3D effects, SFR’s graphical style is a breath of fresh air. With a look and feel very much like Raiden, which you may remember from the arcade, or the excellent Atari Jaguar conversion, SFR is an upgraded version of the original Sky Force, also available on the Android Market. You choose one of three ships, Red, which is your ‘normal’ craft with average speed and shields, Yellow, which has good shields but is quite slow, and finally my favourite, Purple which has poor shields but is really fast. The choice of different ships is a really great idea that adds a tonne of gameplay flexibility and variety to the game in one fell swoop, and reminds me of the old hardcore Amiga game, Project X.
There are two options for the controls, tilt and touchscreen. The tilt controls are serviceable and work well enough, but if you want to get anywhere in the game, then your best bet is to opt for the touchscreen controls. The ship will follow wherever you are pointing on the screen, which is tricky for the slower ships as they can’t keep up with your finger, but great for the Purple craft, which unerringly keeps to where your finger is.
Shooting is automatic, which is really the only way you can play on a touchscreen. Power-ups are activated on the bottom of the screen, but are awkward to use as the icons are quite small and hard to reach in the middle of the chaos. The action is supplemented by a cracking soundtrack that really helps to get the blood pumping in anticipation of the action. There are eight stages to play through with three different difficulty settings that require you to destroy different percentages of enemies in order to proceed. Local scores are supported, but no online leaderboards- a clear missed opportunity, especially as there is an emphasis on the collection of point giving ‘stars’.
The graphics are really nice with great explosions, smoke trails behind missiles, and some big bosses. I really like the 3D landscapes, with towers and mountains rendered in a way to make you feel as if you are really high up. It’s a shame you cant crash into any of the objects as this would have added a tactical edge to the combat. And that really is SFR’s big failing, a lack of any big ideas. Modern scrolling shooters have to have a gameplay innovation to attract gamers attention away from all the first person shooters out there. Ikaruga has its black/white system, for example. The only thing that SFR has in common with the likes of Ikaruga is that the title screen has strikingly similar Japanese writing. One annoying oddity is that, in the menu screens, pressing the physical back button on your device will exit the app entirely, whilst pressing it in the middle of gameplay will simply pause the action.
It is a good, solid shooter, definitely the best of its kind on Android at least, and its always good fun to build up your ship with upgrades and missiles and take on the horde, I just would have liked to have seen a little bit more innovation and re-playability on display. Overall then, a great looking, decent playing shooter that comes recommended for those looking to give out a little pain.