Sky Force 2014 – A Very Addictive Touchscreen Shmup

This blog was supposed to be only about Japanese arcades and gaming related topics but I wanted to write about a shmup I’m currently addicted to, which comes from Poland.
There is an obvious link to Japanese gaming, Japan being the home of the shump (or “Shooting” as the genre is called here), starting with Space Invaders through to the bullet-hell (or bullet-curtain 弾幕 “Danmaku” as it’s known here) games from Cave, etc.

The game I currently can’t stop playing is Sky Force 2014 for iOS, Android and PC from Infinite Dreams Inc in Poland.

Sky Force iOS

Sky Force iOS

It’s a Free-To-Play game which, as a business model, I don’t particularly like (most of the time it really means Play To Win). People generally think it’s good as you get “free” games but lets face it most of them are designed to extract money out of you – by forcing you to pay to play more than 5 times, or more than once a day, etc, etc.

This game uses advertising to generate revenue and they’ve implemented it pretty well, so the ads are fairly unobtrusive. Occasionally after a “Game Over” you get a full screen advert and there are also banner ads when upgrading weapons, but these are very discrete and don’t spoil your enjoyment of the game.
Update: I’ve been playing the game for weeks and wanted to pay the developers some money to show my appreciation, but didn’t think I could so I would click on a few ads occasionally to generate revenue for them. Then I noticed on the weapons upgrade screen a tiny shopping cart icon near your “stars” count, which takes you to a purchase menu with just 4 options. Remove the ads, buy some stars, etc. So subtle I didn’t see it for weeks and the purchase options are limited so it doesn’t look like they’re trying to fleece you. Very nice.

But what about the game itself?
Well it’s a vertically scrolling near-futuristic plane based shoot-em-up.
I say near-futuristic as the art design style is kind of 1942 mixed with a spaceship shooter, so you get big WWII looking planes and ships mixed in with much more futuristic looking aircraft.

There are aerial enemies of various sizes, as well as ground forces like tanks, ships, etc to shoot down as well as the occasional buildings and loot crates to destroy.

There are also people you have to rescue by flying near them for a set time until you can pick them up. I particular like the speech bubble icons that appear – if it looks like you’re not going to save them they start swearing at you! A nice touch.
This game is full of attention to detail and nice touches like that.

There are two control systems, a relative-touch system where your plane follows the relative movement of your finger which is good if you want to be able to see your plane while you play, or the system I use, where your plane follows your finger around the screen.

The graphics are excellently detailed, with lots of character to them and the bosses (I’m only up to stage 5 of 9 so not seen all the bosses yet) are big and fun (but not too challenging – I find once you’ve got to the boss, unless you’re on critical health, you’re pretty much assured a “stage complete“).

Sky Force Boss

Sky Force Boss

There appear to be 9 main stages in the story, but each one has more than one difficulty level and so far I’ve unlocked one bonus stage, so I’m sure there’s going to be more.

To unlock levels you need to acquire medals and these are gained by completing tasks per stage, such as “Rescue all People“, “Destroy 100% of Enemy Forces” and the very tricky, “Stay Untouched“.

There are also cards to collect, weapons to upgrade (via stars you collect in-game, or on the purchase page) and online high-score tables, etc.

As you can probably tell, I love this game and can’t put it down. It’s one of those games that you get to your train stop and have to stand on the platform until you finish the stage.

My only gripe with it so far, is I’ve recently unlocked Stage 5 in which, very early on in the stage your weapons get knocked out so then it’s just a case of flying around trying to avoid the enemies and bullets. A change of pace from the other stages perhaps, but I prefer my shmups to have shooting in them.

It’s available for iOS, Android and on Steam.

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