As a wee lad, I grew up in the arcades. For those younger readers, arcades used to be the place to play the best games available. I remember spending hours with games like 1942 and loving the early style of bullet-hell gameplay that the title offered. I also happen to be a huge fan of Diablo and any “grindy” progression based game.
Diablo In The Sky… minus the loot.
So when I was handed a key to Sky Force Reloaded I was hesitant. I’m not much for shmup games these days but I figured I need to expand my horizons, and good lord am I glad I did. Sky Force Reloaded brings shmups to the masses. And it is a hell of a long game. I’ve played for hours and still have a number of levels to complete (some of which will show up on our YouTube channel soon or be streamed on Twitch). I’ve replayed the first stage in the game so many times at this point that I know exactly where every enemy will be and where all the humans are waiting for rescue.
But why, in a game of this genre, would I spend so much time on the early levels? The hanger system. As you move through a level, every defeated enemy drops stars. Essentially, these stars act as a currency for upgrading your craft outside of levels. After upgrading my health and primary weapon a few times I saved up my stars to grab a magnet upgrade, which then started sucking up any stars near me. Not only did this give me the ability to earn another 50 or so stars per run, it made it much easier to dodge the constant stream of incoming fire.
In addition, the game offers couch co-op. This did make the game a little easier as you had a second ship helping you take down the certain enemies that drop weapon powerups and killing full strings of enemies gives you a chain bonus to your score, but it also made the game more fun and engaging. One miss here though is that the ships are both based on the first player’s upgrades. It would have been a nice touch to allow the second player to have their own ship where they can do upgrades as they like, but for now, they simply get to share whatever you upgraded. That does lead to some fun arguments about what to spend your space bucks on after a mission though.
Hardest Game Ever – Easiest Game Ever
That is what makes Sky Force so special, it is as easy or difficult as you want it to be. Keep in mind, though, that you can’t just run from stage to stage as you please. Each level has missions that give you medals. These medals are required to unlock further stages. The missions have all been the same in my time with the game (I will update the review if I find something unique as I close in on the finish line), including; Destroying 70% of the enemy forces, 100% of the enemy forces, rescuing all the people on the level and completing the stage without taking any damage.
One of the nice things here is the health system. You don’t die in one hit – but you do take significant damage from different enemies – so just a few hits will kill you. You also earn points and multipliers based on your achievements in each run, so score chasers can expect a game with endless replay value.
With all of that said, this is far from a simple game. Even with a ship that is upgraded a great deal, even the first level can surprise me with a stray bullet or two per run. This makes completing the mission without being touched a bit of a challenge. Your mileage may vary depending on your skill level with this genre.
The Switch Can Put Out Lookers
I was pleasantly surprised with the art style of the game, but even more-so with the level of detail and graphical fidelity. Even when all hell is breaking loose the game looks great and runs without any slowdown – docked or on the go.
As you progress through the game, the screen fills with projectiles from every imaginable angle and the Switch doesn’t seem to have any problem handling these issues. That may not be surprising after seeing what Nintendo did with Zelda, but as the system is still somewhat new, I never know how well it will hold up. Here, it impressed me a great deal.
Nothing is Perfect
Here is where my inexperience with this particular genre gives me a little hesitation to hit the game too hard on what I see as a bit of a flaw. The controls feel just a bit off to me. It isn’t bad enough to ruin the experience and my wife (a completely inexperienced gamer) was able to pick up the game and play it with no explanation of how it works at all.
Still – something about the controls feel a little stiff. That may be the hardware’s fault though. I tried the game with the Joy-Cons and the Pro Controller and came away feeling the same, so I can’t tell if it is the analog sticks on the controllers or the game itself – but it requires a mention at the very least.
The only other point that I can make about this game is that it will not appeal to those that want to play a particular level once and move on. You are going to grind hard. I personally love that about the game, but as reviews are opinions (as objective as we try to be) I have to be fair and understand some people will not enjoy fighting the same boss 10 times just to save up for one more missile upgrade on their ship.
There is a story to the game. I’m not sure what it is. Those guys are bad guys – because they aren’t you. So shoot them. There are also two characters that talk trash as you blow up the bad guy – that are essentially color swapped versions of the same art. If there is a difference it is minor.
But, honestly, the game isn’t about the story. The game is about the gameplay – which is almost perfect. The game is about those stars and that next upgrade. And the game is about playing with a friend.
Interested in getting a copy for yourself. We just so happen to have one to hand out. Leave a comment on this review relevant to the game or genre and we will pick a winner on Feb. 6th. Or follow me on Twitter @LimitedFail and Tweet that you want to Take to the Skies. Each counts as one entry. Watch Twitter for a possible additional entry throughout the weekend. Currently, this is for NA Switch Owners Only – but we will see if we can get one for those over the pond if we have the turnout!
Also – check out some multiplayer in the early parts of the game that my wife and I played. No voice over – just the gameplay so you can get a good feel for it. There is an additional place to get a little extra entry for the key in the description on YouTube as well!
Update: We want to thank you all for taking part in this contest. We have a winner! Congratulations to Mimikkutan but don’t fret folks, we will have more giveaways soon and stay tuned to my Twitter feed for a few more surprises in the coming days!