Red Wings: Aces of the Sky Review

If, like me, you’re a fan of combat flight simulators, the Nintendo Switch offers more than a handful of adept, arcade flight simulators to keep our itchy trigger fingers happy. However, the majority of them revolve around the settings of the Second World War. Whilst piloting a Spitfire, Hurricane, BF 109 or Mustang is still great fun, it’s also nice to experience a good old dogfight in more, modern jet fighters or the cumbersome, yet still graceful, propelled bi and tri-planes of the First World War. If you’re looking for a more, high-octane thrill, then there are one or two titles within the Switch’s library to keep you entertained, but when it comes to the Great War, then the excellent, Skies of Fury DX is the only choice we have. That is until now, as All In! Games’ Red Wings: Aces of the Sky takes off to fly a release upon the Nintendo Switch.

The game plays across two campaigns, each one totalling over fifty missions that presents the First World War from both sides of the warring factions; namely, the Triple Alliance (German) and the Triple Entente (British). Primarily an arcade flight combat simulator, the emphasis here is more on dogfighting, rather than a sense of realism in the control of your aircraft. However, with more than ten variations of aircraft to fly, a series of unlockable skins and a variety of mission styles, there’s plenty of content here to ensure many hours of flying time. Much like Skies of Fury DX, the overall presentation of Red Wings follows a cel-shaded, cartoon style, yet one that holds an impressive level of detail to make this a game that stands out in a beautiful art style of its own.

From the get go, the developers have tried to produce a feel of the era in which it is set. The main menu offers a number of choices, from Story mode to Survival and a Tutorial to the general game options; all while a gramaphone blares out a variety of war-time tunes. Although the game covers two campaigns, its main focus follows the career of Manfred von Richtofen, the infamous Red Baron; either as a pilot within his squadron or as his arch rival. Between each mission, the game narrates a series of excerpts and comic-strip storytelling; some of which are actual true-life accounts written by the pilots that flew during the Great War.

The main focus of the game though, lies solely in the aerial duels of that period. Mission objectives take on a variety of forms; although the majority of them revolve around the air supremacy of defeating waves of enemy combatants. Despite this, each mission usually brings one or two new elements to the table to keep things fresh. From early on, you’ll be tasked with taking down enemy blimps or defending your own. These can bring a sense of urgency or a tactical level of play, as green blimps bring in enemy reinforcements when destroyed or the red varieties bring in a constant stream of reinforcements until they are shot own. Maintain your focus on one thing for too long, and you can soon find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer number of enemies in the sky at any one time.

Through progression, the game brings further elements, such as bombing runs where you need to avoid the enemy flak and bomb targets, levels that requires you to navigate through a set of rings and more dangerous opponents that fly heavily armoured aircraft and pack a more powerful punch. However, to help even up the playing field, you can take advantage of a number of abilities and elements. Cloud cover becomes an important asset as you can hide yourself from enemies that may have you within their sights; although this blocks your view of any enemy positions too. Each of the face buttons though, A,B,X and Y, can call upon a number of abilities to give you an edge. From the start of each mission, you can perform barrel-rolls that offer a period of invincibility, call for wing-mate support and perform a quick evasive manoeuvre. However, once you string together a series of eight kills, another ability fills to give a one-shot cinematic kill against severely crippled enemy planes.

Despite the abilities on offer, each one has a cooldown period once used; making their usage another tactical way of playing. As well as this, it’s also vitally important to keep an eye on your own damage levels and fuel reserves. Whilst you can alter headings and pitches with the left joy-con, zoom in with ZL and fire with ZR, you can also adjust your speed levels with the use of the right joy-con. However, the faster you fly, the more fuel you use and the more hits you take, the more damaged your aircraft becomes. Dotted around each mission map, a series of hoops refuel and repair your aircraft; ensuring that you’re able to stay in the sky and fight to live another day.

Depending on mission performances, you are awarded a series of stars upon their successful completion. These in turn can be used to purchase a series of upgrades or unlock a series of skins for each aircraft. Some of these boost your given abilities and their cooldowns. Others, though, can offer extra elements to the gameplay, such as a waypoint marker to the much-needed rearm and refuel rings, extra firepower, more wingmen or armour piercing rounds. It all adds to produce an incentive towards mission progression, as well as offer some long-term appeal as you revisit previous missions to unlock everything that each one has to offer. To bolster its long-term appeal, the game also offers a survival mode which pits you against numerous waves of enemy aircraft and allows you to play either of the campaigns or survival in two-player local co-operative play; sadly, there’s no PvP or online play though.

Despite sharing many similarities to Skies of Fury DX, there’s more than enough here to make Red Wings a game of its own making too. Performance-wise, everything controls with a silky smoothness to all of its flying and combat mechanics and during my playthrough with this game, encountered zero bugs. Its load times, between levels, is impressively fast, creating a free-flowing game that excels in arcade excitement and atmosphere with its sharp visuals and rousing soundtracks. It also gives the player a decent challenge with its levels of difficulty and constant additions to each of its mission varieties.

Overall, Red Wings: Aces of the Sky is another great example of an arcade-styled, combat flight simulation based around the Great War. All of its components, from presentations to controls and graphical and audio qualities, all combine to produce an infinitely satisfying experience for fans of its genre. With a series of awards and unlocks to strive for, as well as a host of content through two campaigns, a wave-based survival mode and two-player local co-operative play, there’s plenty of long-term appeal to be found here. While it may not contain certain elements of Skies of Fury DX, such as PvP, it does bring a lot of other elements, such as a more strategic and tactical approach to the gameplay and a focus around one of the most prolific pilots of the era; making this a nice addition to your Switch library and offering plenty of flying hours to fans of genre. Tally Ho Chaps!

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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Red Wings: Aces of the Sky Review
  • Gameplay - 9/10
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  • Graphics - 9/10
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  • Sound - 9/10
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  • Replay Value - 9/10
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Summary

Red Wings: Aces of the Sky propels itself to great heights with its arcade-styled, flight combat that centres around the infamous, Red Baron.