Nazis are bad and shooting them is good. This is one of the video game commandments and the automatically scrolling shoot 'em up Aces of the Luftwaffe is yet another title to follow its simple directive. If you're ready, get your flight suit on and let's take off.
Aces of the Luftwaffe is played almost exclusively by moving your plane as it shoots on its own. The only other command is to unleash a super power move once your meter is completely full. That's all there is to it. Some variety comes in the form of three selectable pilots who each have unique traits that are fun to experiment with. Tykers is a tricky pilot whose plane rotates slightly and has the ability to gain health when bullets barely miss it, Freshman's plane can move and shoot quickly which is a great choice for beginners, and Beast fires more infrequent projectiles that have a devastating impact. Not only do these brothers in arms shoot at other planes, they also instinctively drop bombs on ground targets (as long as you fly over them, of course). You can imagine how straightforward it is to play, but it's more challenging than you might think.
As you fly and take down enemy forces, the screen scrolls horizontally but it appears as if it's a vertical shooter. I figured there would have been an option to alter the controls for players who want to rotate their television 90 degrees, but there isn't. This may be an insignificant issue, but it's definitely a missed opportunity. The visuals aren't anything special as they don't go for the retro approach but they also fail to offer anything that sets it apart from your average Flash game. Although the graphics don't take much away from the fun factor, the humdrum style will leave you unimpressed. Music that accompanies your combat missions is orchestral and it does a decent job of providing a cinematic backdrop. Sound effects do their job well, however they are mostly utilitarian at best. The voice actors who consist of Germans taunting you and your handler relaying information to you give the audio some much needed depth. That being said, it makes me wonder why your handler has an American accent... Anyway, Aces of the Luftwaffe falls short of being impressive, but the uninspired visuals and audio at least don't get in the way of the gameplay.
Although Aces of the Luftwaffe's gameplay is minimal and easy to understand, it still manages to be a rather difficult game. As you take damage, the screen incrementally cracks until your plane crashes. It's difficult to understand how much health you have remaining, so when your plane falls to the ground, you'll more often than not be surprised. To assist with the difficulty, you can purchase upgrades that'll certainly make you a force to be reckoned with. However, these upgrades cost a great deal of medals (currency that you slowly accumulate as you play). You also have to save up medals to unlock further areas, so the constant required grinding will slowly but surely suck all the will to persevere out of you. Even though I can't stand micro-transactions, I would have actually liked to see some implemented here since the grinding is just too much.
One aspect of Aces of the Luftwaffe that made me happy to play is the challenge. Any sort of progression feels fantastic since the brutal onslaught of enemies gets intense, especially in later stages. Each area ends with a unique boss fight that is usually quite entertaining and engaging. What makes them so enjoyable is the fact that they each have their own weak-points and distinct arsenal of weaponry. Besides these boss fights, you'll find yourself repetitively making your way through hordes of uninteresting enemy planes which becomes incredibly boring much sooner than you would hope. In other words, although it's challenging, can be rewarding, and has interesting boss fights, the bulk of the gameplay is monotonous enough to make you question if it's worth it in the end.
Aces of the Luftwaffe is a solid effort that may not offer anything particularly special, but at least it's playable and has the potential to be a satisfying experience. Before you decide to give it a download, make sure you're ready for relentless grinding through many dull segments. If you are then you might just find an enjoyable little game here.
- + Unique and enjoyable boss fights
- + Simple gameplay is easy to learn
- + High degree of challenge makes any kind of progression feel rewarding
- - Way too much necessary grinding
- - Unvaried gameplay becomes monotonous and boring rather quickly
- - Lack of flair makes it look like a Flash game