Release Date: April 26th 2018
Price as of Article: $19.99 USD, £14.99 GBP
Game code provided by Fractal Phase for review
Just like when you wait ages for a bus and then two come along at once, straight after Manticore we’ve got another flying shoot-y game in the form of Sky Rogue. These are very different beasts however. Originally released on PC last year it’s made its way to the Nintendo Switch with added motion controls!
While I can forgive a lack of a story in a flight combat arcade game, it’s still a shame it’s not here. It’s a game with a high price so I think it’s fair to criticise it for lacking a story. They could have tried to implement something here.
In the audio department you’ve got a rocking, exhilarating soundtrack that keeps up the energy of the game very well. The soundtrack was composed by Phonetic Hero and they’ve done a grand job to emulate the classic feeling of an arcade game, blitzing through the air getting deep in dog fights and bomb runs. It’s a classic good-feel soundtrack that really elevates the gameplay for me. It’s so good you can buy it separately on Steam. In one of the game modes there’s purposely no music and the fact it’s absent sticks out like a sore thumb. Without it, it can feel somewhat bland, that’s how good the soundtrack is.
Visuals & Performance
Visually the game is looking back to some of the mid-90’s arcade games for inspiration. It’s very simple, almost too much for me. I like the crafts that you fly but the environments and buildings you set out to destroy are just a step too far when it comes to how basic they are.
I do enjoy the crisp, clear colours though. They really pop off the TV and the Switch’s screen very well. It’s bright and colorful, really welcoming to the eyes.
As far as performance, we’ll it’s not perfectly smooth but frame drops weren’t exactly terrible or constant. Just a little here and there, usually when pulling upwards and it didn’t bother me so much. It is certainly a shame that it’s not perfect since with the visual style you would think that should be pretty easy.
The game does have a stability problem too. In my review copy the game would very often freeze on loading screens to new levels. And when I say often I mean a good dozen or more times during my few hours with Sky Rogue. Now, you don’t lose any progress made but you still have to annoyingly close down the game from the home screen and start it again, load it all up. It really took me out of the experience. We’ve been informed a patch has already been submitted and may be ready in time for launch but it’s not 100% certain.
Sky Rogue is a flight combat arcade game which isn’t the most common of genres around these days, especially on consoles, although Juan recently got his hands on Manticore which he somewhat enjoyed. This game’s added twist is of course the Roguelike gameplay. You begin the game on day 1 and each mission objective you complete will progress another day. Things escalate over the missions to make it more difficult but objectives are chosen at random. If you die it’s game over, back to the beginning.
It’s not full Roguelike however, since you do have a Tech Level that will stay with you even after you die. These give you access to unlocks such as different weapons, upgrades or even new crafts to pilot. This is my favourite kind of Roguelike experience. I like having at least some progress to take with me to make me feel like actually getting somewhere in a game rather than banging my head against a wall.
There’re not too many things to do in Sky Rogue. You have your standard single player portion in which you fly off to random missions, take out enemy targets whether on land, sea or air and return back to base, rinse and repeat until you get shot down. This is probably where you will spend most of your time.
The game controls pretty well even if it takes quite a bit of getting used to. If you’re used to playing flight arcade games then you’ll probably fit in snuggly although it has been a while since I’ve played one myself. It’s certainly not in realism levels but it’s not exactly full-blown ridiculous arcade either, it’s a nice balance. There are two control options too which can sway the realism one way or the other.
There are various camera perspectives to choose from including a cockpit angle which will please many of you although I definitely preferred the standard view point as I usually do in these kind of games and racing games too. Third person is just where it’s at for me.
A surprising addition to the Switch port are the motion controls. You can use the Joy Cons to pretend you’re a real fighter pilot in a movie or something. Basically you hold the left joy con sideways and you twist it to change the acceleration. The right Joy Con is used as the flight stick to move your plan around. There are other buttons that are kind of awkwardly used like switching weapons, locking on and so on. It really takes some getting used but it’s surprisingly fun and I’m sure you guys will enjoy the novelty of it even if you won’t use it as your primary play style.
If you’re like me then you will probably just stick with the standard controls which I definitely feel more at home with. They are perfectly adequate but I’m sure that you will take some time to get used to them too.
I do need to take umbrage with the tutorial which is really quite poor. Not because of bad explanation or such, but because the instructions cover all the important areas of the screen and you can’t see anything. It was kind of ridiculous and not well thought out. It’s a minor point but it did get the game off to a bad start for me.
After I played it for about half an hour or so, Sky Rogue really started to click better. The main mode will have you progressing through the different days. Each day has a specific target you need to take down whether it be a building, fighters or battleships you take them down and return to base. This means missions can be over in a flash if you want to do a quick run, or you can take your time to take down additional targets and earn more money for some upgrades that aren’t permanent. It’s all randomly generated too, the targets and island you fly over. They don’t feel too different though to be honest. You’ll start seeing patterns and familiarities for sure. Not that it hampers the fun of the game.
There are a nice amount of crafts you can pilot if you unlock them with your Tech Level. They have their own stats that make them feel different. Some are faster, some can take more hits or carry heavier weaponry. I didn’t notice a huge difference but it was nice trying them all out and unlocking them always brought a bit of excitement.
Outside of the campaign mode there’s a couple of extra modes, there’s Endless mode and Free Flight. These don’t add any real depth to the game since they are only the slight variations of the main game. Endless means just that. Unlike the main game mode you just keep on going. Free Flight is a music-less journey over a procedurally generated island with no particular goal in mind.
There’s even split screen co-op which I’m sure plenty of you will like. Split right down the middle, the screen allows you and a friend to tackle the main campaign mode. Sadly this doesn’t change how the missions are structured or anything as it’s pretty much the same thing but with two people. I didn’t have too much of a chance to test this mode out but I did see a lot of potential in it being quite fun as you and your co-op buddy can look out for each other in the skies.
At £14.99 and $19.99 I think there’s a decent amount of value for Sky Rogue. It’s not a bargain or anything considering the fairly low amount of content but I’m sure you’ll want to come back to this one at various points for a quick 20 minute blast here and there. The price could be lower of course but it matches the price on Steam so you won’t feel you’re getting robbed blind by a Switch tax or anything.
Fun arcade action
A little shallow