Skies Of Fury DX – The Switch Island Review
The cold air ripples through the propeller on the front of the rickety by-plane and whistles through the canvas and string that make up the supports for the wings. Over to the horizon you see clouds drifting across the setting sun. As you squint your eyes and turn your head away from the dazzling light you hear the patter-patter of machine gun fire, three, maybe four bullets stream across the front of the fuselage as you instinctively bank hard to the right and pitch downward. The patter-patter of the guns aimed at you sounds off again as you level out, only this time followed almost immediately by the multiple thuds of bullet shells against the body of your craft. You have sustained damage and attempt another manoeuvre to shake your persistent assailant, but it is no use. You hear the guns again and know you can’t push your craft any further, resigned to your fate you level out and pitch towards the sun as a last futile effort to escape. At that moment, out of the dazzling light a blur of movement and a flurry of fire rushes towards your assailant and you see his craft tumble and fall in a mixture of orange smoke and red flame. You have been saved by an unknown, unnamed ally who saw you close to buying your ticket and moved heaven and earth to keep you from destruction.
That wingman is not unknown and unnamed however. They are sitting right next to you on the sofa for a couch co-op blast that is Skies of Fury DX.
The colourful backdrop of a loosely WWI themed shooter seems to have captured something a little bit special. Arcade flight games are a soft spot for me since the days of playing Lylat Wars (Starfox 64) on the N64 against my Dad. Dog fights in Skies of Fury DX are outstanding with a lot of the elements that originally drew me to this style of game. The controls, which are of crucial importance with dog fighting bouts, are really tight. The left stick deals with the accelerator up and down, and also with the turning left or right along the x-axis. Whereas the right stick pitches up and down, while also the rotation of the craft to twist and turn in more acrobatic styles. This set up is further augmented with the face buttons on the left Joy-Con (D-pad on the pro controller) which has different evasive manoeuvres assigned to it. The left and right have a twisting forward facing loop which has to be accompanied by the compulsory shout; “Do a Barrel Roll.” A loop is assigned to the up button and the down being a U-turn, anyone familiar with flight games will feel right at home.
The presentation is also particularly charming. It has a bright colour palate with the rolling hills of a green and pleasant land bellow and a bright blue sky littered with clouds which can be used as cover to hide you from enemy pilots. The scene is often brought to life with clever lighting effects from a setting sun that cast shadows from clouds and craft as they twist and turn in a maelstrom of propellers and machinegun. The craft look vulnerable to the elements and when machine gun fire surrounds them the sound is just how you would want it to be. There is the high buzz of the planes engine as it struggles through the elaborate manoeuvres, the higher pitch scream as you push the right stick, pointing the nose to fall rapidly downward, the thudding sound of metal casing into wooden chassis. All is done to ensure that the sound is authentic and adds so much to the overall character of the game.
The gameplay is at heart a single player campaign which has a triumvirate of level designs. Escort missions; where you defend a wing of craft along a fixed trajectory, Elimination; where you dog fight a series of waves of enemy craft, Time attack; where you fly through neon coloured rings and shoot at floating targets to add time to complete the course. These form everything there is really in the single player campaign. There are challenges for every mission which heighten the risk and reward and add to the replay value, although you do start to notice the repetition of both stages to fly in, and mission objectives pretty quickly. There are two other game modes to sink your teeth into however. The vs mode, which is exactly what you would expect with dog fights against a human opponent being particularly reminiscent of Lylat Wars for me, and a survival mode which works again, particularly well in split screen.
It is this multiplayer aspect which I have had the most fun with. Nothing will quite match the maniacal cackle of the Mrs as she successfully tails me, and then guns me out of the sky, or the glee when we beat our high score on survival. It does feel like a shame that there is no online element to this title, as I think that would have been a great way to extend the life span of the game. Particularly as so much of the game is about unlocking different types of craft and imaginative skins for them through loot boxes rewarded from the campaign. It would also have made the talent tree from the single player feel more meaningful if it carried onto an online dogfight mode.
Overall, this game is a blast. It’s a short burst dog fighter with tight controls and a ton of charm. The absence of an online multiplayer and lack of variety prevent it from soaring higher.