Review: Blazin’ Aces Is A Barrel Roll Of Fun And Frustration
Blazin' Aces is a satisfying shooter that only demands a bit of time to get used to.
- Worth The Time?Once you've learned the ropes, flying around with a wingman is as satisfying as it's ever been on a handheld.
- Things LovedCrisps visuals. Lots of interesting systems at work behind the scenes. More complex than simply flying around and shooting. Being able to eject out of your plane is pretty great. The way the plane starts losing maneuverability when it's damaged is fantastic. Being able to customise on-screen controls. Skirmish mode.
- Things HatedThere's a sore lack of feedback as to what is actually happening, which is a problem for new players. It's hard determining what special ability you've just picked up. The game is extremely difficult from the get go. A lack of things to actually do.
- RecommendationIn truth, Blazin' Aces sometimes seems a bit too expensive for it's own good. It's a polished title no doubt, but when you're seeing even more diverse and rewarding experiences at a dollar less, it does beg a question. That said, it wouldn't be a mistake to pick up Blazin' Aces and take to the skies, as the attention to detail here is outstanding.
- Name: Blazin' Aces
- Genre: 2D Shooter
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: iOS, Windows Phone
- Developer: Red Dot Lab
- Publisher: Red Dot Lab
- Price: $1.99
- Reviewed On: iOS
We’re not accustomed to reviewing iOS titles due to the sheer number of quality titles on the App Store and the lack of free hands we have. But when a local game manages to get itself on the App Store after years and years of work, it’s hard to ignore. Blazin’ Aces, developed by the Johannesburg based Red Dot Lab, is one such example. Released last week Friday, Blazin’ Aces is a slick, beautiful aerial shooter that manages to be more than a little distraction during lunch time. However, as fun as it is, Blazin’ Aces sometimes falters, especially when it comes to making new players feel warm and welcome.
The first thing you’ll notice when launching Blazin’ Aces, and something that many, many apps could learn from, is the option to change the size of the game’s UI interface. It’s something you don’t see a lot of in app nowadays, despite there being millions of examples where such a simple feature would make the game ten times better. Sadly, taking down the UI to its smallest setting, and sometimes just somewhere in the middle, means that most of your touches will go unnoticed. I found myself increasing the size more and more as more of my shots failed to go off. That is, until I realised that my plane’s weapon actually overheats and affects my ability to shoot.
A shortcoming of the game’s tutorial is the absence of some of the more important systems, or at the very least an acknowledgement that they’re actually there. The tutorial takes you through the ropes, teaching you how to fly only using two directional buttons (which works fantastically) and performing rolls that both change your orientation and help you dodge enemy bullets. The tutorial also give you a chance to test of shooting targets and picking up crates that are floating down to the earth, which grant you special abilities. Sometimes discerning what ability you’ve just picked up is hard due to the size of the actual crate, but nonetheless you’re still able to give them a go. Lastly you’re taught how to eject out of your plane should things go bad, which is important when you realise just how many points you lose when you die instead in a flaming ball of molten metal.
The only glaring omission here is the little message that explains to you that your weapons overheat. Granted, I was often playing Blazin’ Aces in between lectures with the sound off, but early on I often mistook an overheating weapon not firing as the game not picking up my inputs, which was extremely frustrating. Flick on the sound and you get a bit more feedback that helps you understand what is happening. In fact, you shouldn’t really be playing Blazin’ Aces without the sound on in the first place. Blazin’ Aces looks and sounds great in action, and it’s easy to see why Red Dot Labs took their time with the release. The attention to detail is astounding in the regard, and does a good job immersing you in the aerial combat experience.
When it comes to actual gameplay, Blazin’ Aces plays it a bit safe. There is a campaign that takes you through a short tale about a legendary pilot, throwing you into various combat scenarios against other fighters. The trick here is that you’re never alone, with an A.I wingman constantly by your side and ensuring that it’s not you versus the world. It also serves to make the gameplay a little more chaotic on the screen, which again only makes the game better. The chaotic nature of the game is complimented by a non-existent respawn timer. If you happen to find yourself in a massive crater in the ground, you’re immediately able to launch a new plane and get back into the game. Matches are score based, with hits and destroyed enemies all contributing to a score limit that needs to be reached. That’s primarily what Blazin’ Aces is about, and while it works it’s just a little disappointing that there isn’t…more.
And really, that’s the only big problem with Blazin’ Aces. On the App Store, you’re surrounded by deep experiences that cost less than a dollar, making the space highly competitive. Blazin’ Aces is definitely worth a dollar, but I can see some people questing why it’s double that. On top of the campaign mode you’re able to just kick back and take part in a little Skirmish mode that is customisable, but that’s where it stops. It almost feels like this game is begging for some for multiplayer, or even co-op, and hopefully one day that will be patched in for free. But as it stands, Blazin’ Aces is still a top notch shooter with only a handful of issues holding it back from greatness. It’s probably not going to be your favourite game on your iPhone, but I highly doubt you’ll be disappointed with it.
It’s fast, frantic and quite challenging, but it’s still easy to pick up and play in short little intervals. That’s what a good mobile game usually is.