Apple may not have envisioned iOS as a competitor to the PSP and DS platforms, but clearly mobile game development is no longer an afterthought. Namco’s one of the biggest game companies in the world, and Sky Gamblers: Air Superiority is a fully fleshed out game for iOS.
You may remember the game from the keynote announcement for the new iPad, and it was heavily featured as one of the apps that used the Retina graphics at launch. So of course, this game looks great on the iPhone 4S and new iPad. Considering the default camera view is right behind the plane, they put a ton of detail and texture into the planes. The weather effects against the camera are also well detailed. The background and enemies don’t get quite the same level of detail, so though the iPad has more pixels than your HD TV, anyone who says this is better than a console game is exaggerating. I will say that this puts out the same graphics as the PSP Vita or 3DS.
The controls are a mixed bag. The default and simulator controls both rely on the accelerometer, which I found just weren’t all that comfortable. I was much happier with the arcade style controls, which use a virtual joystick. You use a few gestures for more advanced maneuvers, nothing more complex than a directional swipe. The wide variety of options is great; you should be able to find something that suits your style of play. An autopilot mode is included if you just don’t want to bother with anything other than the dog fights.
Air Superiority is a sequel to an earlier iOS game, Sky Gamblers: Rise of Glory. This was a WW I flight simulator, but from what I can gleam it is only tangentially related to Air Superiority. Namco’s console flight game, Ace Combat has a similar feel. The campaign has ten missions. There is a story mostly told through comic book style scenes before missions. It isn’t sophisticated, but at least it provides some window dressing. The campaign missions are the standard waypoint to waypoint layouts with a good variety of action. Though ten missions might seem on the short side, there are around a hundred dogfight missions to play and unlock. You can also play the multiplayer game modes against bots if you’d like.
The multiplayer is another deep well of content. There are five game modes that should be familiar to most players, including a PvE survival mode for those squeamish about taking on random opponents. Once you’re connected to a game everything runs smoothly, but I had some random problems getting connected to games. You’re given a random assortment of ten games to choose from, but there isn’t a ping or signal strength for any of the games. This means that you’re going to randomly get connection errors. I thought that it may be an issue with my network so I tried it on public Wi-Fi and had the same issue. It wasn’t a show stopper, but it’s a common annoyance when looking for a game. You can also set up private matches but your friends will need to know the name of your game to join. Be warned this mode on the iPhone can steal an entire lunch break very easily, leaving you with cold leftovers and having to eat over your keyboard. This game is crying out for iCloud sync as multiplayer stats and campaign progress should sync across devices.
Air Supremacy should be on every iOS gamer’s devices. It plays well in either form, but you’re going to miss the great visuals unless you’re on the new iPad. There is plenty of material and multiplayer that guarantees that you’re going to get your money’s worth from this title. I was really impressed with this game and hope to see more big time developers put out games with this much polish on iOS.
Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy is a universal app for $4.99 in the App Store.