No need to gamble, this one's a sure bet.
There are several reasons why there aren't that many flight games on the App Store. The main one, though, is that every developer seems to want to stick to tilt controls and simplistic gameplay. On first playing the tutorial levels I was concerned that Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy might be another to add to the list, but I was wrong.
The tutorial initially sets you up with what are classed as 'casual' controls. This turned out to be quite a good idea, as I found out when the next level showed me another layer of controls on top of this and then even more again. Sky Gamblers is certainly not afraid to take itself seriously in the controls department.
My earlier fear of tilting to fly was also put to rest, somehow Namco Bandai have actually managed to implement a fairly robust tilting system, but they've also provided a whole host of control layouts to keep everyone happy, including several virtual joypad controls.
So with control worries put aside, it was on to the missions in the main story mode. The story is certainly different. It takes a slightly sci-fi turn from the off as you battle unnamed enemy planes before things go very strange and your own wingmen turn on you.
While it won’t win any prizes, the story provides a welcome tale to hang the career mode on and is presented in great looking comic book style scenes. Having a story gives you a purpose in the game and ensures that you’re not just fighting a horde of unmarked planes from nowheresville.
It’s Sky Gamblers’ graphics that first got the game noticed at the recent iPad launch, though, and with good reason. The retina display is put to good use in the game. The downside is that this is a typical flying game with a vast area of scenery to render. There will be those gamers who are eager to point out a pixelated tree here or an incorrectly drawn hill there, but for the most part the game copes extremely well with displaying a huge array of scenery from hills to tall skyscrapers and the wonderfully shimmering water effects without flinching once.
Even on the iPhone 4 and 4S the game looks impressive. The phones cope well with the scale of the game too, it never feels too small or cramped and provides a great portable flying experience. But it’s the new iPad which shows off Namco’s new title the best, especially when linked to an Apple TV using Airplay.
Aside from the single player campaign, there are smaller bite-sized games of dogfighting, free for all, capture the flag and survival for the single player and these modes are replicated for multiplayer too, both locally via Bluetooth or WIFI and Online. Local dogfighting works perfectly, even with 2 people playing on different devices, but online matches can sometimes be a pain to get started. When you do, though, it’s fantastic fun and capture the flag works surprisingly well for an aerial combat game.
The last time I had this much fun with a flying based game online it was with Crimson Skies on the original Xbox. If that isn’t a compliment then I don’t know what is. The fact that it’s so easy to set up and play the way you want to, with the range of control schemes, makes this all the more accessible for everyone and yet playing against other people online will often provide a much bigger test of your flying skills than the main campaign ever does.
Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy is a great ambassador for the new iPad, but even if you only own an iPhone 4 or an iPad 2 it’s still well worth a purchase. It’s by far the best aerial combat game on iOS and should provide plenty of longevity thanks to the myriad of modes on offer once the campaign has been completed.
- Sound: 8
- Graphics: 9
- Gameplay: 9
- Longevity: 9
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