Aces of the Luftwaffe – Squadron Review Does this game shoot its way into your heart, or is it just full of holes?

This product was reviewed on a PlayStation 4. It is also available on PC via Steam, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One. A code was provided for review purposes.

Overview

Aces of the Luftwaffe – Squadron is an action-packed, vertically scrolling shoot ‘em up with a fully voiced narrative. Dodge bullets, collect massive power ups and wisely use special abilities as you defeat waves of enemies. Upgrade each member of your squadron with their personal skill tree as you level up. The title ambitiously attempts to live up to the “bullet hell” moniker often assigned to such games. So, how does it do? Lets dive into the review and find out!

Gameplay

Aces of the Luftwaffe – Squadron plays like any other shoot ’em up game, with a few added benefits. Set in a world where the Germans invade U.S. soil during World War II, you control pilot Mark Taylor in 25 levels of bullet frenzy. What sets ‘Aces‘ apart from other shoot ’em ups, is the accompanying squadron. Mark is joined by John King, Melissa Monroe, and Steve Davis. Each member of the squadron has unique active and passive abilities, adding a layer of depth and progression to the gameplay.

If you’re playing solo. the squadron takes formation around you, and fires when you fire. They use their active abilities freely, but at time, can be quite wasteful with them, even if you tamper with the NPC settings. Each member of the squadron also has a unique handicap. Mark Taylor(the main character) is occasionally affected by a poison, forcing you to slow your movement until it passes. Steve Davis has narcolepsy, and will randomly fall asleep at times. Melissa Monroe suffers from acrophobia, and will desert her squadron until she recovers. John King has fits of rage, darting back and forth across the screen, colliding into anyone in his way, even allies. While this is an interesting feature, which forces you to pay attention, it’s also quite annoying, and at times, a hindrance.

The game features couch co-op for up to 4 players, allowing friends and family to take control of the squadron. This will give you an advantage by spreading your damage over more of the screen, while raising the challenge by adding more enemies on screen. While it’s nice to see a game like this include the often left out couch co-op, the lack of online play feels like a major drawback.

The game features five acts, each with 5 missions. You’ll navigate through a barrage of bullets, destroying any aircraft that gets in your way, all while collecting various power-ups, as well as Medals, which serve as the game’s experience. Gaining enough Medals will award you with a level up, as well as a Skill Coin to be used to upgrade your squadron. Each mission has a side objective, adding more variety to an already action packed game. These objectives range from protecting allied aircraft, to airdropping support packages to ground troops, and even stealth.

Enemy aircraft in Aces are highly diverse. The screen will be flooded with a variety of varying enemies, each with different types of attacks. This trait is shared by the games’ boss battles. Each boss encounter feels unique and forces you to play in different ways. Depending on your chosen difficulty, it can also be immensely challenging, even borderline frustrating. With that said, it’s a feeling of satisfaction and pride when you finally topple that boss you’ve been stuck on.

Another area where Aces shines is in its progression and unlockables. Skill coins can be acquired by collecting enough Medals to level up. Each mission also contains a hidden skill coin somewhere. This seems to be random, and it may take you a few runs of the mission before you blow up an aircraft carrying the skill coin. Skill coins can be spent on a variety of skills, both active and passive, to aid you in your quest. These range from upgrading your firepower, to abilities such as cloaking, repair for damaged aircraft, or even bombs that do massive damage to all enemies on screen. Leveling up these abilities is essential for your success. You also have the option of resetting your skills at any time in the Skills menu. This refunds all of your skill coins, allowing you to redistribute them however you see fit.

In addition to skill coins, the game also features 10 different aircraft, which are unlocked via boss battles. Once unlocked, you can freely change your squadrons aircraft, at any variety you see fit. If you choose to, you can even set all 4 members of your squadron to use the same aircraft type. The aircraft all have different stats, ranging from increased health or damage, to speed or shot angle. You can farm boss battles to unlock new aircraft, or upgrade models you already acquired. An upgraded aircraft has slightly better stats than its predecessor. This feature, coupled with leveling up your squadron via skill coins, seems essential for success on the games harder difficulties.

Graphics/Sound

The visuals in Aces of the Luftwaffe – Squadron are exactly what you’ve come to expect from this type of game. The art style is bright and colorful. Bullet effects and explosions flash with vibrant presentation. Character dialogue is highlighted by static portraits of the speaker, and the games’ few cut scenes are mostly images depicting the described events, with moderate animations to make them stick out more. It’s not amazing, or different from other shoot ’em up games in any way, but it’s enough to get the story across.

Like the visuals, the sound design of Aces is nothing that will blow you away. Collisions and explosions all have the expected sound effect, all while the background music crescendos to the action on screen. While there is a fully voice acted script, it’s cheesy, and if you farm missions, you’ll get tired of it quickly.

Summary

Aces of the Luftwaffe – Squadron is packed with replay value for the price tag. The progression and level of customization is nice to see combined with the shoot ’em up genre. Though the voice acting leaves something to be desired, it’s enough to help push the story, which is interesting and well handled. Though it’s difficulty may seem frustrating to some, fans of bullet hell games will feel right at home.

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Aces of the Luftwaffe - Squadron

$14.99
8.7

Gameplay

9.7/10

Graphics

8.0/10

Sound

7.5/10

Performance

9.5/10

Pros

  • Frantic shoot 'em up action
  • Highly replayable
  • Customization and progression
  • Decent narrative
  • Challenging and rewarding experience

Cons

  • Corny voice acting
  • Squadron handicaps can be annoying

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