TikGames / Creat Studios' Skyfighter is a 2D dogfighting action game. For the most part it's purely fictional, but it draws heavily from the World War II era with regards to the overall look of enemies and allied units. After recently arriving on PSN it's time to see if the open freedom of airspace works well within a constrained environment.
After a series of tutorials the game shows it's got quite a lot up it sleeve. Players can speed up their aircraft as it flies along the screen and use the air brake to pull off a lot of aerial manoeuvres in order to evade enemy fire. They can also twist their plane over on its wing in order to maintain an upward ride as they loop over themselves and end up turning upside down in the process. Players can also utilise the aircraft's machine guns and in the case of the more advanced fighter and bomber they can also fire a rear machine gun using the analogue stick. There are also a few secondary weapons, such as grenades, bombs, rockets and mines, and even the machine gun's rate of fire can be improved.
However, while the fighter and the advanced fighter control really well, the bomber does not. It can take a lot more pain it just can't turn or do any kind of complex manoeuvre and when it's slow and can't turn left or right because of the 2D constraint it makes it much harder to kill the enemy planes chasing you.
After the tutorials, the campaign can be attempted and there's not really much of a story. Each of the 21 missions has a mission briefing, and other than that it's essentially down to performing various sorties on the enemy. Players are thrust into an aircraft for each mission, given an objective and a secondary objective and then tasked with achieving those is the goal. These start out very easy and even some of the later missions aren't that challenging. But, while this is true there are some huge spikes in difficulty on the missions in-between - usually on "boss" missions. The difficulty on these kinds of missions really ramps up compared to everything before and after and having a strategy and a specific knowledge of exactly what is coming up is the only real way to get past them.
Fortunately, none of the missions suffer from repetition. They all feel unique and part of this is due to the environment and backgrounds. At only a few points does anything feel recycled. The effects and sounds are all very appealing and the art style really help to immerse players fully. Even the little speech bubbles that pop up above the little planes' cockpits help with this too. The bosses are really inventive as well, though there are a few issues involving hit detection on some of them.
There are multiple difficulties in the campaign and by doing the secondary achievements players will unlock extras in the form of artwork and bonus missions to play in another mode called Air Combat. These are essentially mini challenges and some of them are actually relentless, mostly due to time limits. This is made all the more harder by the AI which, even on lower difficulties, seems to have a habit of staying directly behind the player no matter how many twists and loops they do wasting valuable seconds. The AI is questionable with regards to the friendly AI as well, as they tend to be pretty much useless and die within the first few seconds of every mission.
The game features a multiplayer mode though, it's some what restricted. There's a handful of maps and you can set a cap for time or kills. Then you can play against AI bots. There are several plane models to try but the biggest drawback is its only restricted to local play. The campaign can also be played through with a friend to remove the inability of the AI, and this can make the game a lot more enjoyable, but again it is local only.
Skyfighter is a confused mix of good and bad. While the game feels fun and looks great, there are far too many frustrating parts that don't flow with the rest of the game. For example, the difficulty level. The options on offer after the campaign are limited and suffer from repetition and the actual controls are sometimes too rigid and cumbersome. The addition of multiplayer, while a minor distraction, is very basic. Overall the ideas and presentation work well, but there are just too many other elements that don't come across in a good light.