Namco-Bandai decided to update their game library by releasing the second game from the Sky Gamblers series, Air Supremacy. This time, instead of the old WW I planes featured in the first game, you will get to fly modern (fictional) fighter jets against AI controlled opponents or your online friends.
Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy is quite old actually. It has been released on the iOS platform over a year ago and received generally positive reviews, praising the graphics and the addictive gameplay. Now we finally have a chance to test the game for ourselves and see how it performs on our favorite OS, Android.
As you start the campaign, 2 page comic book pops-out, revealing a plane carrying some kind of artifact of great importance that gets struck by lightning, causing a chain-reaction and making the auto-pilot self aware. The aircraft changes its original course and disappears completely. 35 years later, your military supervisors start panicking as they find the remains and decide to send you on a mission to take off and destroy the aircraft remains at all cost.
As interesting as it sounds, this kind of presentation can hardly make any adrenaline-junkie follow the storyline. You will probably find yourself skipping the intro as you start your next mission in a hurry to get inside the cockpit and start shooting things down. Besides, the story driven campaign is not the key selling point of this game, it’s there just in case you rage-quit from a multiplayer match and decide not to play online for a while.
Controls and Gameplay
Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy can be described as a mixture of genres featuring elements from both flight simulators and arcade shooters. The “something in between” combination works surprisingly well on devices with limited control capabilities. There are 4 predefined schemes that you can customize further from the option menu, ranging from manual pitch and yaw controls by using your built-in accelerometer, to fully assisted static joystick with automatic stabilization. You will just have to try them all and see what suits you best, but for beginners, this is the setup I recommend starting with.
I also highly recommend giving the tutorial a spin before starting anything else, or at least certain control related parts of it, so you don’t end up doing this.
If you get in trouble, you can always engage the auto-pilot from the top menu. It will line-up your jet, perform maneuvers or follow nav-points if you happen to be on a mission, but will never fire on enemy jets, or use flares to avoid missiles. You will often find yourself turning it on and off multiple times during battles as it can quickly change your course and get behind enemies, allowing you to lock-on your heat seeking missiles and start shooting. When it comes to canon based dogfights, you are better off without it as it tends to do a lousy job setting the offset required for your cannons to hit. Again, this is only for beginners and you won’t be needing the autopilot assistance once you master the controls.
The whole concept revolves around lining up your jet, shooting weapons and releasing flares at the right moment and while it may sound simple, it actually works quite well. Dogfights are fast paced, exciting and shooting down enemy jets online feels quite satisfying, until you start receiving air-to-air missiles from behind or getting pummeled by other players canons.
Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy feels big and it is big. Terrain mapping is excellent if you consider the map sizes and their diversity, but certain objects lack details. Player controllable jets for example are well designed with plenty of details, but objects like tanks, helicopters and buildings look like they lost their polygon count somewhere down the road. Even the terrain mapping looks dull and boring once you get closer to the ground, but up in the air, everything is absolutely gorgeous and that’s what really matters here.
Free to play restrictions
Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy can be downloaded from the Play Store for free in form of a demo game. You only get 1 Jet, the first half of the campaign (10 missions) and free-for-all bot mode where you can test your skills against AI controlled enemies before jumping online. To access the online mode, however, you will not only be required to see ads, but click them as well. If you decide to simply close the pop-up window, the game politely informs you to click the ad or go away. If you decide to buy the full version and unlock everything, you can do so by spending $3.0 from within the game.
Despite the annoying ads, Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy looks good, plays good and is good even if you decide to play only the demo. Granted, it may feel a bit difficult to handle when you pick it up for the first time, but all the control options available should help you tweak the game as you please. Google game services provide achievements and access to global leaderboards where you can compete for better position against friends or globally. There are couple of things you should know before downloading the game though. First, it requires you to download 1.82 gigabytes of data and second, it tends to crash a lot on some devices. Personally, I didn’t experience any problems while testing the game on my “old” Nexus 7, but there are plenty of user complaints on the Play Store indicating frequent crashes and freezes.
By Ivica Kiwin
UPDATE: Removed from the Play Store, then re-added with slight modifications. Download it here.