Games set in historical times tend to get bogged down in their setting that’ll alienate some players. Luckily, Red Wings is a fast paced WWI-era dogfighting game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. So just how does this divergent game stack up?
First and foremost, Red Wings is really fun. The controls and combat are engaging and satisfying. Instead of going the hardcore flight simulator route which is intimidating and difficult, your plane handles exactly like you would expect it. The combat is also very intuitive: zooming with the left trigger will focus on your target but you have to follow it yourself in order to keep up with it. This results in dogfights that feel realistic but remain accessible. All in! Games even managed to create enemy variety by adding enemy planes with different perks and abilities. This game also contains the only hunger/fuel mechanic I’ve ever experienced that hasn’t made the game worse for its existence. The developers avoided many potential pitfalls and it really pays off.
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The Switch version of this game has a distinct flaw that the others don’t: motion controls. I’ll save you some frustration, don’t use them. They’re completely optional, a fact for which I’m very grateful. The controls in the default analog mode are superb, but when I tried the motion controls the game became absolutely unplayable. They feel like, and probably were, a total afterthought. Thankfully the Achilles heel of Red Wings is totally avoidable and the rest of the game plays excellently.
The level design is simple but varied. Each level is contained in a giant oval with a variety of enemy types and formations within them. There are rings that refill your health and fuel, realistic cloud cover and varied landscapes that span the bottom of the maps.
There are three different kinds of levels: dogfighting, bombing and ring courses. The weakest of these are the bombing levels, but these are few and far between. The ring courses are more common, but surprisingly fun. What could’ve been a disaster of Superman 64 proportions is a pleasant break from the gunfire.
Red Wings actually has two stories. The campaign is split between German and American/British/French Forces. Again the studio was smart about managing their story: it’s entirely composed of a collection of comic-esque photographs and narration. The scripts are well written and not too history heavy or boring. The dual structure is unique and just enough.
Graphics / Art Direction
Much like their gameplay, Red Wings’ graphics are more about fun and function than hyper-realism. Everything is crisp but the realistic planes rendered in a cartoonish way, and this blend pays off well, keeping the eyes satisfied and frame rate constant.
Music / Sound Design
The music is one of the weaker areas of the game but still adequate. It serves the turn of the century aesthetic well but gets stale after a while. If you’re like me and tend to play games in handheld mode with the volume down, you won’t really be missing anything.
Final Score: 92%
Red Wings is something special and this is due in great part to the restraint of the studio. Instead of pouring their energy into a convoluted historical storyline and cutting edge graphics that wouldn’t have made the game any better, excellent controls and simple fun are front and center, just as they should be.
Thank you for checking out our Red Wings: Aces of the Sky Switch review, thank you to All in! Games (via Terminals) and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support:
- Andrew Caluzzi (Inca Studios / Camped Out!)
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