reviews and playing tips: Pocket PC, MS Smartphone, UIQ and Symbian
Series 60 Phone Games
Sky Force by Infinite
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
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.
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
I recommend you use the hardware controls.
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
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
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
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.
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.
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.
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