Take to the skies in The Great War as a fighter pilot in either the Triple Alliance or the Triple Entente engaging in thrilling airborne dogfighting combat in All In Games arcade flight sim, Red Wings: Aces of the Sky.
Red Wings: Aces of the Sky closely follows the adventures of famous polish ace, the heroic Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen. Players have a choice of either joining his squadron in the Triple Alliance made up of Germany, Austria and Italy; or fighting for the opposite side of the war in the Triple Entente comprising the United Kingdom, France and Russia. Each campaign in the story has 25 missions to take in addition to a survival mode for quick play.
Rather than lose yourself in any number of gauges and aeronautical mechanics, Red Wings: Aces of the Sky opts for a lighter approach to allow players to concentrate on the action, given the Nintendo Switch’s screen estate is also pretty limited when undocked or mobile this works well for handheld players. The main onscreen HUD consists of a health and fuel meter which also has the throttle gauge attached to it on the left side. On the right side your ace’s special abilities, represented by the face buttons on the JoyCon and a radar for spotting the enemies trying to sneak up on you or your objective markers.
Special abilities keep within the realms of reality in Red Wings: Aces of the Sky. Your pilot can perform a number of aerial maneuvers designed to assist you in gaining the best positioning on other enemy planes or avoid incoming damage. As offensive abilities, you can call in a wingman on a targeted attack on another plane as well as an instant kill takedown which must be charged before usage through a set number of enemy takedowns.
As your ability increases, the number of skill points awarded in each mission increases, some missions concentrate on your time to complete all objectives whilst others rely on your ability to combo your takedowns to achieve a higher score. At the end of each mission, you have the option to assign the awarded points in the skill book. Players have the option of either increasing the potency of their special abilities, their damage output or several mission-related passives such as health recovery on takedowns.
Missions are an assorted mix of search and destroy as well as straight-up dogfights with a number of bomber missions mixed in for variety. After the initial tutorials showing you the ropes, Red Wings: Aces of the Sky moves into a chapter-based story with some well-illustrated cutscenes and narration. The narration is interestingly done with the main storyteller utilising different voices to recollect the events and persons involved.
The bomber missions are rather simplistic though, displayed in a different art style which isn’t as detailed as the bi-plane gameplay and could be considered filler since they are rather basic and short.
The real draw here is the aerial combat and it’s where the game shines the most. New planes are unlocked on both sides of the war as you progress through the missions and a number of skins or paint jobs for those vehicles become available when you reach preset scores or combos in certain missions. Whilst some of the achievements needed to unlock skill points on some missions may seem excessive, once you have played through a mission you can come back at any time to reply with any unlocked aircraft making things easier as their maneuverability and offensive capability differs from the original starter craft.
Red Wings: Aces of the Sky tries to take full advantage of the Nintendo Switch by offering Motion controls when the JoyCon are detached. This swaps around some of the default controls by mapping movement and shooting to the right JoyCon, which is wielded flight stick-style. The left JoyCon is then used for special moves. Implementation is a little hit and miss and in more hectic dogfights in the later missions you are definitely at a disadvantage over the normal controls. It also requires some adaptation of the method as the buttons and controls feel different. On earlier, more leisurely missions it works well and shows what could be done with one of Nintendo Switch’s defining features outside of Nintendo first-party games.
With a well-presented cell-shaded style, arcade dogfighting action and great controls, Red Wings: Aces of the Sky offers players around five to six hours of action with a local co-op mode which doesn’t compromise what’s on offer in single player. A fair attempt on motion controls and the ability to pick up and play or replay missions in short windows will keep players interested in this light-hearted take on World War One aerial combat.