Modern shoot 'em ups either feel like long-lost classics or interesting new experiences. As a follow-up to their mobile shooter from a few years back, Aces of the Luftwaffe: Squadron takes the series in a fresh direction but is it a war worth enlisting to?
It seems like post World War II alternative realities where the Nazis continue their silly shenanigans are all the rage. Just yesterday, we discussed Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and a few months ago, I reviewed Strikers 1945 which is more fittingly a classic shoot 'em up. Aces of the Luftwaffe: Squadron tells a similar story where a secret German commando unit rises from the ashes and threatens the world. So, it's your job to put an end to them. Thankfully, you have a group of allies that fly alongside you who help in the war effort. Although the core gameplay isn't far removed from what you'd expect, you're controlling four planes simultaneously (if you decide to play solo) so ensuring that no one takes any hits can be a rather tricky endeavor. That being said, if one of your allies gets shot down then they'll rejoin you again shortly after so it's not that big of a deal. In the end, it's simple but fun.
One aspect of Aces of the Luftwaffe: Squadron that brings a lot of life into the campaign is the cast of characters. You'll regularly hear dialogue between your teammates which enhances the gameplay and ushers in a lot of personality to the story. Along the same lines, the boss fights are very memorable as they consist of a collection of goofballs with oversized machines that are fun to take down. Whether it's a UFO-like craft or a runaway airborne train, blowing up these bosses is surprisingly satisfying.
That being said, the campaign outside these bosses is rather flat and generic. The stages don't offer any memorable moments and all you do besides survive to the end is try and master optional side missions. These add some variety but seeing as they're optional, it still makes me feel as if something's missing. The campaign is pretty short, too, with only 25 brief stages. On the plus side, you'll amass a wealth of upgrade points as you progress and perform well that grant boosts to your team of pilots. Also, you can invite a few chums to join you via local multiplayer which is implemented fantastically. It's great to see this in play because it's uncommon in the shmup realm.
Finally, the gameplay as a whole is very slow-paced and it becomes tiresome quickly as a result. This definitely isn't the sort of shoot 'em up that'll bring you back to a time when reflexes and skill were all you needed to succeed. Instead, it comes across like a solid attempt at appealing to those who are new to the genre. A huge contributing factor to this is that it's a vertical shoot 'em up yet the playfield is as wide as the screen. Whereas shmups like Raiden, Battle Garegga, and Ghost Blade provide a focused and action-intense dynamic, Aces of the Luftwaffe: Squadron ends up being far less exciting merely because of its wide playfield and slow pace.
Although it's not up there with the best shoot 'em ups, Aces of the Luftwaffe: Squadron provides decent enough gameplay that can be enjoyed with up to four simultaneous players. If that sounds like fun then you surely won't regret giving it a download.
- + Basic and enjoyable shoot 'em up gameplay
- + Great boss fights and allies add a layer of personality to the shooting
- + Cool squad mechanics and multiplayer
- - Gameplay is slow-paced and quite generic
- - Wide playfield makes the action less exciting
- - Fairly short and unvaried campaign