The year is 1946. The world war is over, and a squad of 4 American pilots are on a routine flight when they are attacked by ally fighters. Upon further investigation it is discovered that the Germans are behind the attack, and are mounting a full scale invasion of America. This time though they have high tech weaponry, from a UFO style fighter with lasers to a giant mechanical bird that downs your fighters with a single blow. Can you defend America from this unexpected threat and end this war for good?
Aces of the Luftwaffe – Squadron is a vertical scrolling shoot ‘em up where you take control of a 4 man squadron, attacking waves of enemies as you fight to reach the end of each level. Enemies will drop crates that contain new weapons that are stronger than your standard guns, though they have a limited amount of ammo. Controlling the squadron is rather annoying, as you have to worry about dodging enemy attacks over a larger radius than just your main aircraft, or risk losing one of your planes and thus weakening your firepower.
An interesting mechanic they have implemented is that each fighter in your squadron has a strange personality quirk that can manifest on the battlefield. Your main fighter has a disease that when it crops up forces you to fly slowly or risk death. One is scared of heights and will take off from the battle for a time, leaving you down a man for a section of the level. Another goes into a fury state, forcing you to dodge them as they fly around randomly, as touching them causes instant death. And lastly, narcolepsy forces one fighter to fall asleep, and you must protect them from the enemy until they wake up. It’s a neat idea in concept, but overall it is just annoying and frustrating.
As you destroy enemies they will drop medals, which you can collect to help level up your squadron. Each level you get a point to spend on a fighters skill tree. The catch though is that each fighter has their own skill tree, and you only get one point overall, so you have to choose what fighter to spend your single point on each level. You also unlock new planes with their own unique stats. Although basic, this system helps give you a sense of progression, rather than the usual score based runs shmups are known for. That is until you realise that most of the skills don’t affect much besides the few that give you new abilities. By the time you unlock the opportunity to upgrade those abilities on the skill trees though you will have long finished the game.
Graphically this game leaves much to be desired. Handy Games have a background in mobile gaming, and this title definitely has that cartoony generic “for iOS and Android” look. The backgrounds are washed out and dull, which actually serve this style of game well as it doesn’t distract from the action… that is until they have enemies that are ground based and a part of the background. In these instances where it draws your attention to the background, the game looks horrendous. This is only exacerbated when in docked mode, where all the games flaws really shone through. This is a game best enjoyed handheld, and looks to be designed that way.
This title is fully voice acted, which looks great as a bullet point in the games description. Unfortunately the voice acting is almost unbearable, with some of the worst accent impressions I have ever heard in my life. As for the music, it is touted in their description to be an “Epic movie-like orchestral soundtrack”, but instead is rather uninspiring, filled with what can only be described as generic World War 2 tracks. Think of the music for any major WWII movie or series in the last 20 years and that is exactly what you get here. It fits, but adds nothing to the experience. As for the sound, the engine noises and gunfire sound grating, making you want to turn your sound off, which is probably not a bad idea considering everything I’ve mentioned above.
The writing is abysmal, from the character interactions to the story as a whole. Your squadron of fighters have what is supposed to be playful banter, but it just comes across as awkward and painful to hear. None of the jokes land, eliciting responses from eye rolling to audible sighing rather than any form of amusement. None of the characters are interesting in any way, and besides their annoying quirks that affect some of the levels, are completely forgettable. As for the story, there is nothing really there. You are given a loose mission objective and then shoot down some fighters. I wouldn’t normally care too much about a shmups story, but they describe it as a “Captivating storyline with fully voiced characters”. Unfortunately only half of that is true.
Also of note, I had multiple crashes during my time with this game. It seems to be rather unstable, with some crashes happening during gameplay, and others while I was idle in the menus.
Overall, Aces of the Luftwaffe – Squadron is a bad shoot ‘em up. From the mobile game style graphics, the music, story, sound effects and voice acting, to the lacklustre enemies and controls, there is no real redeeming factor to this game. Not only that, they are charging $14.99US for a game that feels nothing more than a ported phone title. It is hard to recommend this game to anyone, as even if you are a fan of shmups there are many other games in this genre doing new and interesting things, even on the Switch itself. Maybe if you were marooned on a desert island with nothing but a Switch with this game installed then why not, but besides that unlikely scenario I would suggest you save your time and money.
This review was written by guest contributor Lachlan Bruce. You can follow him on Twitter here. A copy of the game was provided to him.