Aces of the Luftwaffe Squadron is set at the end of World War II in a fictitious alternative history in which the Germans dispatch an Elite UFO and other whacky Objects flying force to attack the United States, luckily Mark Taylor and his 3 wingmen are on hand to stand between them and destruction. Full voice acting and whimsical side-kick action brings the typical what-if story to life and whilst no oscars are going to be won in this Shoot em up it does a good enough job of keeping you entertained.
The voice acting is the audio star here, throughout the 25 levels set across 5 stages you and your wing men crew are chatting and bantering whilst your enemy sounds suitably fiendish reminding me of hydra from the Marvel universe or some other dastardly bunch, as a result the music takes a back seat here coming into play during cutscenes and in between the action more often that during the action. We have an orchestral style here with strings and drums featuring heavily in moody and epic tracks that suit the tone. Sound effects form the bulk of the audio and they do not disappoint, guns sound deep and explosions all around make you live in constant fear of getting blown up.
The game opts for classic shoot em up sprite based graphics that bring to mind games like Metal Slug with a slightly cartoony style and bold colours. The cutscenes are either in game or storyboarded and these do work rather well whilst during the action there are projectiles, planes and other carnage all over the place. Whilst these effects and enemies generally look quite good it is worth pointing out that the bullets all look similar which can sometimes confuse you and lead to you running into enemy bullets. One slight gripe is the similarity of the ground in each of the stages being generally quite similar with none particularly standing out.
You take control of the lead plane piloted by Mark Taylor and are accompanied by John King, Melissa Monroe and Steve Davis and together you fly in formation lending their firepower to yours as you take on waves of enemy fighters as well as ground targets, air mines and massive bosses. Level length is spot on and the difficulty progresses at a nice pace after an initial easing in to the mechanics. The left stick is used to move around and enemies come at you and fire at your from all angles and as a result you need to be on the move at all times, you can shoot by holding down B and release your special attack by pressing Y once fully charged but you must use this attack sparingly as it takes a lot time to charge up. The game plays out in classic shmup fashion and there are a few interesting dynamics to keep things fresh.
You and your wingmen each have a skill tree that can be levelled by using skill points which are awarded as a result of levelling up, completing missions and additional tasks, du e to this you find yourself wanting and needing to replay levels to gain additional skill points and boost up your characters. The upgrades are permanent and each character has a unique approach – Melissa has healing and buff style skills to unlock whilst for example John provides heavy attacking support. Each of your characters including Mark each has a delibitating effect that takes them out of the level or reduces their abilities for a bit of time consequently leading to switching up your normal style to get through this. It seems like a good idea but in addition to tweaking gameplay it can be rather annoying.
Multiplayer racks up the difficulty a notch, furthermore it also increases the number of medals received increasing your pace of levelling up. Multiplayer was my favourite way to enjoy Aces of the Luftwaffe, being able to cover more areas of the screen at once opens up cooperative play whilst increasing the risk of death. The number of lives is shared across players leading to having to protect and help improve your weakest link. Because of the simple control scheme the game plays well on a single joy con and getting four players together is a blast.
On the move the game plays really well and we experienced no slowdown or any performance issues and this is the sort of game you can get stuck into on the move.
Bosses are extremely memorable from a flying train that spits out fire and kept me and Juan stuck for an overly long amount of time to a pair of twins that have different attacks that combine and then split, these battles are a blast and stand out above the generally similar levels in the game, there are some exceptions that include stealth or other objectives but generally the side missions provide additional challenges that tend not to revolve around shooting down enemies. The game offers 3 difficulty levels and Hard is a nice but manageable step up from Normal. The hardest mode is unlocked only on completion of the game and racks up the difficulty.
Aces of Luftwaffe Squadron holds a lot of replay ability due to its difficulty modes and skill tree that has you replaying levels trying to complete side missions and competing for a high score with yourself, sadly there is no online leaderboard or functionality which is something that I felt would have added to the experience. At $14.99 in the US and £13.49 in the UK its quite and expensive Indie game but I do feel its quite reasonably priced as it is on the polished side of Indie titles not to mention the replay ability on offer when playing with friends plus being able to play on the move.