Rogue Aces is a 1940’s arcade shooter available on the Nintendo eShop for a minimal fee. It’s a game by Infinite State Games and published by Curve Digital. Getting those small bits out of the way, what’s it all about?
In Rogue Aces, you take control of a 1940’s aeroplane, armed to the teeth with bullets, rockets and bombs. Not just for display, these are the tools required for causing mayhem on nearby islands. Your task is a simple one: destroy enemy personnel, vehicles and buildings through liberation.
The core game is the campaign mode. There are around 100 randomised missions set across procedurally generated islands offering plenty of variety. At the beginning of the game, you will start on an aircraft carrier, controlling one of three planes. Once all three planes blow up, it’s game over. Alternatively, if your pilot dies, that’s it also.
Earn your wings
Controls are pretty straightforward. The left analogue stick controls where your plane will go and the right stick is for throttle. From take-off to landing, the controls are intuitive unless you’re an ace pilot, you will often crash into cliff faces, the sea or eat the dirt. After a short time, you’ll soon be familiar with how to stay in the air.
These planes are an expensive piece of kit, so the powers that be want to ensure you know how to fly this thing. Complete a series of tutorials, and you can fly until your heart’s content. Not all of the training levels are necessary, but I’d suggest it. Learning how to eject efficiently later helps with the gameplay.
For the primary campaign mode, you have the three planes I mentioned – they’re all the same, but you can consider them as your lives. There are no credits, so when you’re dead; you’re dead. To keep the plane going, you’ll need to refuel or get it repaired on the aircraft carrier, but there will be times when you’ll get shot down. To survive, you will need to eject and learn how to steal other planes. In mid-air!
Also worth mentioning, there isn’t any air collision detection in Rogue Aces. You can fly through formations without taking any damage (other than the bullets). I found myself flying directly into a formation and hitting the bomb button. It worked. Additionally, you can take out enemy parachutes by flying into them, hitting them with your propellor. That’s what she said.
As mentioned, the controls can be a little tricky like using the right analogue stick for throttle and left for steering. I held down B to take off and the left stick for flight. I would then use the boost (L) – to collect a power-up or to speed back to base.
With modes like Survival, you have to use both sticks, so landing becomes a challenge. When you have enemy fighters trying to shoot you down, this will pose a nightmare. However, in the arcade mode, hold down B over the landing strip, and you’ll automatically land (or take off); refuel, repair and have a custard cream with a brew before taking off again.
On a mission
Starting from your aircraft carrier, your Captain with give you each task. He’s very frightfully, frightfully and adds to the feel of the era. Ish. Each play starts with a random mission so one playthrough could say to destroy two enemy planes, another, to blow up an enemy building.
When you complete the mission, you need to return to the ship to get your next mission. It’s a bit annoying having to return each time as the earlier tasks are easy. That said, it’s an excellent opportunity to repair and refuel. You’re going to want to keep your planes going unless you steal an enemy one.
Eject at the right time, and you can land in an enemy plane and air-jack it. Pull this off enough times, and you effectively have infinite planes. It’s an entertaining feature, but very risky. If you miss the plane, you’ll lose yours. You can’t fly unless in a plane. This trick also makes your pilot vulnerable. Should your pilot get hit, you’re stone-cold dead. It’s gratifying though if you get to grips with this trick.
Damage is significant in Rogue Aces. Take a few hits to the fuel tank, and your fuel will spew out, which means less flying time. If your wings get hit, you’ll note the control is further restricted. At any time, hit the d-pad and you have a status report in the top left of the screen, but there isn’t always time to do it.
Levels aren’t particularly big, but with each new mission, new enemies spawn for you to destroy, so there’s always something to shoot. It does get quite repetitive, though. If you veer off too far to one side, you will be told you’re leaving the area and will need to return – no room for cowardice.
Unlockable Modes and Power-ups
Thankfully, bullets are infinite. They aren’t particularly powerful but keep your finger on the trigger, and that will wear enemies down. Rockets and bombs compliment bullets, but as you can expect, you can only carry so much until you use them up.
With this in mind, there are numerous power-ups obtained by wanton destruction. If you shoot a plane out of the sky, you can expect to grab a crate with an upgrade from anything like increased acceleration to a faster rate of cannon fire. Power-ups keep you in the game longer and help with the arcade feel.
Power-ups can be applied at the start of the game too as you can unlock these by building EXP for your pilot. There are two pilots – a male and a female one. It doesn’t matter which one you choose, but I was the woman as she was purdy and reminded me of Amelia Earhart. I don’t know her. We never met.
As you complete missions and pull off crazy stunts and combos, you get a boost to your EXP, consequently levelling up your character. You can switch between the two though as the EXP isn’t exclusively for one pilot – it’s shared amongst them. It’s an excellent addition, but it takes an age to level up in my experience.
Tally-ho and what-not
Visuals are appealing. It does look like a mobile type game – nothing to blow you away but functions for the style of play. I’m pleased they didn’t opt for a pixel art type aesthetic just for the sake of it. Characters are also well illustrated, but they are used to complement the text that appears on the screen.
As a metal fan, I could say that the music is good. Well, it is good, but for me, it was so out of place while playing that I muted it. I appreciate it’s a fast-paced arcade shooter, but it was too distracting for and seemed to show-off a bit.
The single-player campaign is the meat and potatoes of it all, but there are other features such as a Survival mode, Rogue Ace arcade mode which is for score multipliers and my favourite, the Frontline campaign. The latter is a timed run where you have random missions and jump from island to island. Quite similar to Bad North’s map system. With this mode, you have one of the enemy Baron pilots trying to shoot you down, so it’s quite tricky. You can destroy them, though. They take a little longer.
There are some other hidden features which I haven’t unlocked yet. I only know they are hidden based on the developer’s write up of the game. Is there enough to keep you entertained, though? Absolutely. Rogue Aces is quite a big game, and with the procedurally generated levels, no one map is the same. Enemy types are quite limited, and the game can be very repetitive. I’m cool with this. I have been playing Rogue Aces on and off for the past couple of months.
We’ll meet again
It’s fine on the Switch – it doesn’t stand out on this platform, but given a choice, I’d have this on the Switch for the portability factor. Rogue Aces is very quick to pick up and play so good for a commute. A co-op play would be excellent, but it would have to be split-screen as I could see a lot of frustration if someone had to return to base.
All in all, I like Rogue Aces. It’s repetitive but fun repetitive. The air-jacking feature is a joy and makes you look uber cool if a friend is watching. Power-ups and a plethora of maps keep up the replay value too, plus if you’re hardcore, the bonus Veteran mode would be a must. Off you toddle, old boy. Go snap up a copy of this and be back for breakfast.
By the way, in fear of not having an Amiga reference, I have to point you towards Wings of Fury. I loved this game, and Rogue Aces is very similar. Apart from the very satisfying cries when killing the enemy.