Red Wings: Aces of the Sky Review – Switch

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The aerial theaters of the First World War are a section of history not often represented in videogames, but Red Wings: Aces of the Sky allows you to take on the role of a pilot for either the Triple Alliance or the Triple Entente. You might not get too far arguing about the historical accuracy of the game, but over 50 missions, you’ll engage in dogfights with other aircraft, attack ground targets, and attempt to defend your homeland from the enemy. Developed by All In! Games, who are based in Poland, Red Wings is an arcade-like take on the flight simulator genre and has recently released on Nintendo Switch.

Alarm bells rang when I first loaded up Red Wings, as I noticed that each level awards the player a rating out of three stars, much like many mobile games. However, unlike the mobile structure, where the stars are often used to gate off later levels, Red Wings allows players to use the stars to unlock improvements for their aircraft, meaning that they act as a reward instead of a punishment. You are able to complete levels without obtaining any stars, and you can even complete the game without worrying about how many stars you have collected, even if you will have a tougher time doing so. Because of this, gaining stars feels like a reward, and you are incentivized to complete missions quickly or with a higher score, and you’re given a reason to return to earlier levels if you’re finding a later section especially tough.

Levels in Red Wings are fairly short, with most being able to be completed in five to ten minutes, which makes them perfect for playing on the go. When the game began, I was impressed with the variety of missions on offer, from straight-up dogfights, to bombing runs, to taking out stationary targets, and while there is a decent variety here, you’ll soon start to notice a repeating pattern. Because the levels are short, though, you’ll often be switching up what you’re required to do, and there’s enough variety that it will usually be three or four missions before you’re performing the same task again. Disappointingly, it seems as though both campaigns follow an identical pattern when it comes to mission type, meaning that aside from the brief story interludes, it feels like you’re playing through the first campaign again, just with different colors on your plane.

With regards to the narrative on offer, Red Wings doesn’t have a lot going for it, and as mentioned previously, the historical accuracy is questionable at best. In fact, it’s best to think of the game as more of a comic book-based videogame than one based on real events, and this approach is aided by the cel-shaded visuals, which help to make the planes and other targets stand out from the backdrops, of which there are a number. You’ll be fighting over cities, countryside, ports and deserts, amongst others, and while you don’t see much detail on the ground, the change in color palettes helps the experience feel fresh and varied.

Mechanically, there’s a lot about Red Wings that feels like the flight sections in the more recent Star Wars: Battlefront games, with a variety of special abilities on the face buttons of your controller, and a generally simple approach to flying that helps the game feel snappy and quick. There isn’t much depth here for those seeking out a flight simulator, but it definitely feels like this is an intentional decision, and it certainly helps for players who want to jump in and out of the game. You’re essentially in control of your direction and your speed, as well as your weapons, and while there is a fuel gauge that you have to keep an eye on (topped up by flying through rings), there’s no need to worry about stalling your plane or watching a variety of dials.

I had a lot of fun with Red Wings: Aces of the Sky, and though there were a couple of issues that I had with the game, I was always willing to play the next mission, or to go back and improve my abilities if I ran into any trouble progressing. It’s not a deep experience by any means, and some players may be a little disappointed that there isn’t more to it, but I found the mechanics to be incredibly easy to learn and a lot of fun to use, and the relatively simple setup goes a long way to making the game feel punchy and fast-paced. There are plenty of missions as well, allowing for the player to feel as though they are improving both their plane and their skills, and though the story is largely forgettable, it allows for a variety of environments that help add a splash of color to what otherwise might be a bit of a drab experience. We’re in a bit of a lull for console-based flight simulators currently, especially those of a more arcade-like feel, so Red Wings: Aces of the Sky has become a welcome addition to my gaming collection, and if you’re looking for a game of the type, then I would strongly recommend checking it out.