The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Sky Gamblers- Air Supremacy

Sky Gambler is a combat flight simulator designed by Bandai Namco, released somewhere back in March 2012. Originally costing 4.99 in the app store, I chose to pick it up during a sale out of curiosity. The app drew my eye with its incredible graphics- while the gameplay and concept do not introduce anything new to the table (Metal Storm Wingman is one of the first combat flight simulators designed for iOS, and is free of charge), the game was advertised as having a diverse range of missions, and unlike Metal Storm Wingman, permits for offline gaming. The idea of offline combat, coupled with a half-off sale, were sufficient for me to decide on the purchase.

  • Compared to Metal Storm Wingman, Sky Gamblers has superior graphics in every respect. At five dollars, the game is priced reasonably, but at only two dollars and fifty cents, that is a bargain I couldn’t pass up. I purchased the game on the Thanksgiving long weekend and have since gotten through most of the campaign.

  • The aircraft in Sky Gamblers can be acquired through unlocks (in addition to in-app purchases), making it easier to obtain high level aircraft without spending a cent after buying the game. The F-117, A-10 Thunderbolt and even the SR-71 make an appearance in the game, along with reverse-winged experimental aircraft.

  • The ability to change perspectives and fly an aircraft from the cockpit is an incredible touch: players looking for the Ace Combat experience can switch it so that only the HUD is shown. Remember the F/A-18 mission from Battlefield 3? This time around, you’re piloting the aircraft.

  • The campaign is entirely skill-based and players have access to a pre-defined aircraft during each mission. This makes it unnecessary to purchase any additional planes just to complete a mission.

Sky Gambler puts the player in the role of a fighter pilot, allowing them to fly various missions to complete objectives. The aircraft can be controlled in one of four means: two of these are intended for novice players, and the other two are designed for hard core players who desire more control of their aircraft. Both novice and advanced controls can be accelerometer based or touch-based. Players can also accelerate/decelerate their aircraft through on-screen touch controls. Finally, combat implements, namely the auto cannon, missiles and countermeasures, are deployed via on screen controls as well. Players are offered several perspectives to fly their aircraft from, including third and first person. The gameplay options are varied and diverse. Aside from a campaign, players may also wish to complete dogfight missions, or go head to head with other players in online matches. In the event that one is offline, they may also go head to head against computer players. Players are rewarded new aircraft and experience points for completing missions; with sufficient experience points, players attain new ranks and unlock additional aircraft in the process.

  • Things can get very messy with the sheer number of targets on the screen. Fortunately, the multi-target missiles and radar make it easier to keep track of what’s where. The radar is also useful for tracking missiles once the player’s aircraft is painted: paired with the use of countermeasure flares and special manoeuvres, it is considerably easier to dodge missiles in Sky Gamblers compared to Metal Storm Wingman.

  • While the weapons selection is limited, it allows players to get comfortable with a small set of weapons. Moreover, this makes online matches more balanced: players with superior weapons in Metal Storm Wingman could win matches on the virtue of superior firepower alone, but this is not the case in Sky Gamblers.

  • Skilled pilots can perform moves between skyscrapers if they feel inclined. It really says something about technology when portable devices like the iPod Touch and iPad can run games that rival a GameCube and PS2 in complexity and detail.

  • Having tried both Metal Storm Wingman and Sky Gamblers, I conclude that Sky Gamblers is ultimately more fun and is more oriented on actual skill rather than grinding. That said, there is a learning curve associated with piloting an aircraft in Sky Gamblers. Once this is overcome, there is little doubt that Sky Gamblers is a brilliant implementation of an arcade combat flight simulator for iOS.

  • There’s weather in Sky Gamblers that changes dynamically. I remember once starting a game and then it started raining in the middle of the match. Seeing scripted weather changes is one thing, but seeing things change dynamically is quite impressive.

The graphics are the probably strongest elements of Sky Gamblers. Locales and aircraft are beautifully textured, and the scenery in general is amazing. Players may notice that there is weather in the game: on occasion, clouds roll in and it will start raining, and other times, haze appears, covering the battlefield and forcing the player to slow down. Particle effects like explosions and fire are visually stunning, and destroyed aircraft sometimes will break up in the atmosphere. The gameplay element is particularly important: as a novice to combat flight simulators, having the option to control my aircraft through simple mechanisms is particularly welcoming, allowing me to familiarise myself to the game without a particularly steep learning curve. Finally, planes are unlocked rather than bought with real-world currency, giving incentive for me to join the occasional match for experience points (that said, there is an option to purchase the aircraft, although this is unobtrusive and given as an alternative to unlocks). Coupled together, these factors give Sky Gamblers immense replay value.

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