MobileTechReview.com PDA, Notebook and Phone Reviews and buyers guide
PDA Phone Notebooks Gaming Gadgets iPhone & iPad Shop Discussion

Advertisement

JadeDragon's reviews and playing tips: Pocket PC, MS Smartphone, UIQ and Symbian Series 60 Phone Games

Sky Force by Infinite Dreams, Price: $9.99
Reviewed August 2004 by Tony Peak

The latest shooter for our beloved Pocket PC comes from Infinite Dreams with their graphically stunning title, Sky Force. Featuring 7 levels, 4 bosses, a killer soundtrack, and graphics that look like modern PC bump mapping, Sky Force strikes hard into this crowded genre with a strong blow.

Sky Force plays something like a classic 1942 style shooter, mixed with a light dash of the modern brightly colored bullet pattern shooter. Waves of enemy planes typically fly and come at you arcade style, while the turrets and bosses often fire out more detailed patterns. Missile attacks mix things up a bit, and the smoke trails are really something. Your ship comes in three flavors, fast, medium, and heavy with the shield ranging from light to strong accordingly. Your single cannon weapon can be powered up with bigger blasts, and eventually dual cannons, while automatic heat seeking missiles add to your offensive capabilities.

The enemy AI isn’t much, but the squads do fly in very nice patterns and the bullets are thankfully more than the cheap straight on attack. While there’s not a vast amount of dodging work to be done, it is very much present. The hit boxes feel nearly pixel perfect to your ship, which might be a little larger than some are used to, but thankfully isn’t any larger. Control felt very tight, both using the stylus and the hardware buttons. I prefer the hardware buttons as usual, and had no problems zipping between waves of attacks.

Where this game really shines though is in its presentation. The graphics are just gorgeous, a great mix of 2D and textured 3D that really show talent. The textures are all very crisp, clear, and detailed. The bump mapping and shadowing gives the game’s environment a level of detail rarely seen. The fire, smoke trails, transparent explosions, and other particle effects take the standard sand-grain looking particles we know to whole new levels. It looks so good that I play it in a darkened room just to get the full vibrancy of the colors and sharpness of the image. While there was a little bit of slowdown on my Axim X5, the big firefights it ran at about 70%, it doesn’t take away from the experience in the end.

So many games for the Pocket PC ship with lackluster soundtracks, or none at all, that we’re pretty much used to it. Thankfully this is not the case with Sky Force. Not just the sound effects, but the soundtrack itself is great. While it doesn’t exactly set new standards, it’s a very solid, very enjoyable eletronica-ish track that matches with the graphics equally well. Along with playing in a darkened room, I play this game with headphones to really enjoy the music and sound. It’s good enough to be distinctive, but not so prominent as to distract from the game.

With all this good however, there is some bad. The one downfall of Sky Force is its cakewalk difficulty, even on hard. The 7 levels will take about a half hour or so to complete, so it’s long enough for a good game but not so long that it can’t be beaten in one sitting. The trouble is that if you have even a hint of hardcore shoot-em-up skill, the game is a complete walk in the park. While it’s fun to play, there’s a lot to shoot, and a good amount of dodging is involved, it’s just very hard to ever actually lose if you’re good.

There’s no ending of any kind, and no reward of any sort. At the end of level 7, the game loops back from level 1, continuing from the beginning with all your power-ups and status. This unfortunately turns this wonderful game into little more than a wonderful shooting gallery. While it’s fun as heck to go back and blast the living daylights out of the first few levels of enemies with your dual cannons and trio missile attacks, it turns an already very easy game into target practice with a bazooka.

It’s really hard to ever lose a life if you can dodge effectively, especially on the second or higher trip through. There are at least two bonus lives in the course of the game, and each time you complete the levels, it will loop back again. In other words, I found with minimal effort I could keep looping through the game and collecting lives without even a hint of losing, and on the hard difficulty no less. I stopped on my third loop through, it felt a little pointless once I was gaining life instead of losing it.

So is Sky Force worth it? Yeah, I think so. It’s a shame it’s so easy, but if shooting games aren’t old hat to you like they have been for me most my life, I have a feeling you’ll get more challenge out of the game. A quick check of high scores on the developer’s forum showed that I had 2.5x the average player when I shut it off with no hope of losing, so I wouldn’t think its average. There’s still dodging to be done, a lot to shoot, and the game is just polished to a high gloss. It looks good, it sounds good, and it’s a fun way to kill some time. For the price, I say go for it. At about the price of a pizza, you’ll definitely get your money worth.

 

 

screen shot

 

Pocket PC
Symbian Series 60
MS Smartphone

 

 

Playing Hints and Tips
  • Look for the two Life pickups. Both are hidden in boxes I believe, and one is on the obstacle course level right at the very end.
  • Destroy formations of fighters to upgrade your cannon. Destroy the harder tan fighters for dual cannons, and destroy certain ground targets for missiles.
  • Surviving is simply a matter of good dodging and shooting skills. Learn to weave between the bullet patterns and take out your enemies efficiently, and you’re set.
  • I recommend you use the hardware controls. There’s no delay of movement, you don’t block off part of your view, and it’s just more old school. Use automatic firing if you’re not concerned with score, but turn it off if you are. You get an accuracy bonus at the end, and automatic firing wrecks havoc on this of course. It also makes it hard to rescue folks.


    Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

    Graphics

    With graphics like these, a slight slowdown on the older machines is just a fact of life. So long as it doesn’t harm the experience, and it doesn’t in this case, I can’t hold it against it. It’s still smooth, it’s still gorgeous, and we need more games like it.

    Sound

    A great soundtrack that adds to the package but doesn’t claw at your ears or fight for your attention. The sounds are all great, from the explosions to the well, explosions of other things. There’s nothing wrong with the sound, and a lot right with it. That’s all I ask.

    Fun Meter

    I seriously had fun playing, there’s a lot to shoot and the patterns are all very nice, but I would have had a lot more fun if the challenge was higher and the reward was greater. Blowing the heck out of the early levels with a powered up ship is fun for awhile, but short lived amusement in the end. No story and no reward take it down a notch from titles like Siberian Strike X for me.

    Addictivity

    I’ll play it again, because it’s so polished and presented so well, but there’s little to do but play it and beat it. Highscore becomes useless when the only thing that determines if you lose is your attention span. The looping levels are fun, but I would have much preferred the early level enemies be replaced by progressively tougher foes, firepower, and armor.



Back to MobileTechReview.com Home Questions? Comments? Post them in our Discussion Forum!