Sky Force Reloaded review code provided by publisher.
There is a lot that can be said for the trusty old vertical shooter. The method by which games within that genre combine fast and furious shooting action, a cornucopia of visual carnage and muscle twitch reactions is an intoxicating cocktail of sorts that serves to bring its fans back time and time again. In adhering to that now well-worn though no less successful template, Sky Force Reloaded stakes its claim as a solidly enjoyable shooter that does right by vertical shooter aficionados, even if it is perhaps a little too similar to its immediate prequel.
Sky Force Reloaded – a very solid vertical shooter from yesteryear
If you have played the previously released Sky Force Anniversary, you'll have a fair idea of what to expect here as developer iDreams has largely replicated much of it for Sky Force Reloaded. On the face of things, this isn't bad at all because Sky Force Anniversary was a solid shooter in its own right, the problem however, is that so much of that game is brought over wholesale including many of the same unit types, assets, power-ups and so on, that it makes Sky Force Reloaded feel more like an expansion pack rather than a true sequel that can be entirely critiqued on its own merits.
For those unfamiliar with the Sky Force games then, the premise is simple; from a top-down perspective you guide a fighter craft around the screen with a view to shoot and destroy as much enemy craft, ground vehicles and infrastructure as possible all the while trying to save the squeaky-voiced stranded innocents strewn around the map. Making things a little more sophisticated are the wide range of power-ups that you can collect and mission objectives that you can undertake, both of which help to elevate Sky Force Reloaded beyond that of a regular vertical scrolling shooter.
As far as the power-ups and upgrades go, Sky Force Reloaded employs a two-tier system both of which serve to ultimately increase the destructive potential of your fighter craft. In addition to the power-ups that you receive during play which increase both the speed and power of your shots, you can also invest the many gold stars which you collect from defeated enemies in-between missions, too. These stars can then be used to pay for a wide variety of upgrades for your craft, ranging from simple health and shot power upgrades to a wingman drone and even a powerful, screen clearing smart bomb, to name just a few.
You'll need to invest these stars frequently too, as the later stages of Sky Force Reloaded prove to be almost overwhelmingly difficult which means that, almost as a by-product of its design, that upgrading your ship to be able to function at an acceptable level to beat these levels is essential, but to accumulate the required stars you'll need to head back and replay stages that you will have already completed.
While you would be right to equate that practice with a degree of repetition, Sky Force Reloaded alleviates the potential tediousness of this exercise by providing the player with a number of different objectives to complete for each stage, such as killing all the enemies or saving all of the civilians on the level. Because you won't be able to achieve all of these things at once most of the time, Sky Force Reloaded has you taking bite-sized chunks out of each stage; tackling a single objective in isolation before upgrading your ship and coming back to do more. In this way the game does a commendable job of making players want to replay those earlier levels, rather than making such an activity seem like an extraneous and laborious endeavour.
Helping to make your life a little easier, Sky Force Reloaded also allows players to collect various rare cards that randomly crop up during any given mission. You'll want to collect these cards too, not least because they each enable either a temporary or permanent unique effect such as bolstering your attack power, or providing you with an extra special weapon at the beginning of a stage, for example.
Despite such wrinkles to an otherwise established formula, developer iDreams does still adhere closely to the vertical shooter template, and as such you can expect to get your hands dirty with memorising enemy attack patterns, working out strategies to deal with the game's screen filling bosses and learning how to dodge and weave through a veritable maelstrom of incoming enemy fire successfully. This would be a much more difficult proposition if your craft felt even slightest bit sluggish, but I can happily report that the different craft at your disposal in Sky Force Reloaded all feel ultra-responsive and satisfying to control. Likewise, being able to drag along a local friend to tackle the game co-operatively also proves to be boon and can make taking down some of Sky Force Reloaded's big bads an easier and potentially less aggravating pursuit than it might otherwise be.
Something else that should be noted is just how polished Sky Force Reloaded is. Sure, it's not a looker in the traditional sense of drowning in fancy shaders and special effects, but everything from the maps to the numerous vehicles and bosses that inhabit them are all rendered with decent detail and boast a visual crispness which make them easy on the eyes. Oh, and the super smooth, 60fps screen update doesn't hurt either, and if anything, serves to bolster the ultra-responsive craft movement yet further still.
The old adage of ‘if it ain't broke, don't fix it' is very much one that applies to Sky Force Reloaded as developer iDreams hasn't exactly pushed the boat out when it comes infusing a great deal of innovation into the game.
With that in mind, though Sky Force Reloaded builds only timidly over what we saw in its prequel, Sky Force Anniversary, the fact remains that it is an engaging, well-presented and smartly engineered vertical shooter that is easily capable of providing hours of blissful fun to fans of the genre.
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