Ever since classic arcade games like Konami's Time Pilot, soaring through the sky while shooting down enemy planes has made for some fun times. So, does Rogue Aces do a good job of modernizing this retro formula? Strap in because we're about to find out.
Rogue Aces was developed by the creators of one of the most underrated arcade-style games of all time: Don't Die, Mr. Robot! In this game, you control a plane by indicating which direction it should fly with the left stick and accelerating / decelerating with the right. Meanwhile, you shoot and boost with two shoulder buttons as well as launch rockets and drop bombs with two face buttons. There are also controls to manually eject, auto-land (which costs points), and bring up your damage report and statistics but you likely won't use these features very often. After running out of secondary weapons and taking some damage, you can land on your base ship in order to replenish your craft. Doing so is a lot easier than in Top Gun but it still requires exceptional finesse. Overall, the gameplay provides tight and challenging aerial combat fun that can be quite rewarding.
The visuals in Rogue Aces aren't that impressive and are mostly utilitarian. They're not bad but not very memorable either. The buildings are rather detailed and it's strangely satisfying watching them crumble as you blast away at enemy bases. When it comes to audio, there's a generic guitar-filled rock soundtrack and spot-on sound effects that add a great deal of satisfaction to the onscreen action. My favourite part of the presentation is the sense of humour. Your captain is a stereotypical British bloke whose passive comments made me crack a smile whether I succeeded at a mission or bit the dust. It's silly stuff that somehow makes the gameplay more addictive.
Rogue Aces has a ton of content. First of all, there are various campaign modes such as a straightforward normal or veteran campaign and a stage-based frontline campaign as well as arcade modes like Bomber Defence, Hot Potato, Rogue Ace, and Survival. The latter has you shoot as many planes down as you can without landing on your base ship so your score multiplier doesn't reset. Thankfully, you can climb the leaderboards no matter which mode you decide to play. If you need a little help then there are a handful of tutorials, too. Finally, if you want to enjoy Rogue Aces on the go then you can take advantage of the Cross-Save feature which is great considering Rogue Aces is a Cross-Buy title. Along with the vast assortment of modes, there are tons of randomly assigned missions to master as well as upgrades that enhance your acceleration, armour, cannon power and fire rate, turn speed, and bomb, fuel, and rocket capacity.
Before wrapping this up, I should discuss a few downsides that took away from the overall experience. For starters, the controls are unconventional and take a lot of time to get used to. When you first start playing, you'll likely crash frequently and not know how to properly land. However, once you get used to everything then you'll understand how to play effectively but reaching that point requires a lot of patience. Similarly, the mechanics can be way too sensitive which causes a lot of needless frustration. Whether you accidentally end an otherwise perfect run by falling off the edge of your ship while landing, crashing into the side of a cliff that you had no idea was ahead, or smacking into the water while trying to steer out of harm's way; it's hard not to be at least a little annoyed. Last but not least, even with the variety of modes, the gameplay starts to become very repetitive after a dozen or so attempts.
Rogue Aces may not be as clever or innovative as the excellent Don't Die, Mr. Robot! but it does provide addictive roguelike dogfights that'll keep you coming back for more. Just make sure you have plenty of patience before giving it a download.
- + Tight aerial combat gameplay with unique controls and challenging mechanics
- + Great sound effects and use of humour
- + Lots of modes and missions to master
- - Requires a lot of patience as the tricky controls take a long time to get used to
- - Sensitive mechanics can be frustrating
- - Starts feeling repetitive after a short while