Ah, the classic retro-inspired rail shooter. No other classic arcade game genre has translated to touch gaming quite as well as this one… and maybe pinball. Sky Force fits the rail shooter formula to a T, and executes so well, it’s suddenly surprising that no one else has managed to pull off this seeming basic style of game with any success on a mobile device. The controls feel as natural, or perhaps more-so, as the classic arcade joysticks.
If you’ve never played a rail shooter before, we’ll catch you up. The idea is you start on either the bottom or right side of the screen. In the case of Sky Force, you start on the bottom. You are usually in a jet, helicopter, or space ship — in this case, a jet — and fly forward, toward a barrage of enemy aircraft, bullets, bombs, missiles, lasers, and anything else the enemy decides to throw your way. Meanwhile you’re firing your own arsenal of weaponry back at them, all while dodging and weaving whatever you can’t or haven’t yet destroyed.
Normally in rail shooters, you collect weapon, shield, and hull upgrades along the way, as they drop from exploded enemies while you try to make it to the end of the game before running out of lives. Of course, that’s how rail shooters were played in age of arcade cabinets. Sky Force adopts a more modern approach to progression and challenge: unlocks. As you blast your way through the levels, you pick up stars and complete objectives. For example, destroying 70 percent of the level’s enemies may be required in order to move through the following levels and defeat more powerful enemies.
Sky Force‘s visuals speak for themselves. The 3D environments are gorgeous. The sound effects are and music are equally impressive, though probably more-so to those of us who are used to playing this type of game in an arcade. It’s like the developers, Infinite Dreams, made Sky Force to sound like you remember rail shooters sounding in the 90s. That is, much better than they actually were. The bottom line is Sky Force‘s aesthetic surely appeals to retro gaming fans without alienating younger players.
Sky Force is a free to play game which lists several in-app purchases, but we have yet to find the sales pitch. Everything is unlocked using stars, the only currency in the game, which you collect while playing. It seems like these would be what Infinite Dreams would try to sell you, but again, we can’t find where to buy them. Sky Force also has in-game advertisements, but they never appear while you’re actually in a level; only when transitioning between screens or while buying unlocks.
There are, unfortunately, timers associated with the unlockable plane upgrades, which can be sped up by using stars, but the timers don’t keep you from playing the game. The timer will continue to tick away while you’re blasting gunboats out of the sky.
Overall, we are thoroughly impressed with Sky Force. The gameplay is intuitive, exciting and genuinely a joy. The IAPs are fair, in that they seem to be missing. Regardless, there’s no aspects of Sky Force that are behind any kind of paywall. We suspect Sky Force will eventually turn into a grind, as the challenges are difficult and the unlockable upgrades get expensive quickly, but since we’re talking about a free game, that’s a mild criticism. If you’ve been reluctant to try Sky Force because of freemium apprehension, fear not; this game is definitely worth your time.
Sky Force Review: A Proper Mobile Rail Shooter
-Fair free to play scheme