Rogue Aces (Switch, PS4, PS Vita)

When the bad guys come calling, nothing better than an aerial frontal assault! Take control of a fighter/bomber and fight off incoming ships, planes, and tanks in arcade or campaign modes. Rogue Aces is a side-scrolling airplane combat game with some roguelike attributes. Use your guns, missiles, and bombs to attack air, land, and sea targets. Satisfy the mission parameters to clear an area and progress to the next level. Rogue Aces is a fun little shoot-em up that is enhanced by its campaign options.

Rogue Aces is a 2D side, scrolling game focused on combat. One can compare it to the classics Defender arcade game, with a bit of roguelike progression added to the mix. While smashing whatever comes your way is good clean fun, the game features several options for longer term objectives. Every game style starts you off aboard an aircraft carrier in the sea. After taking off, you will be challenged by planes in the air, ships in the sea, and troops on the ground (tanks, missiles, and anti aircraft batteries.) While you can roam freely, the level has limits on the left and right (you’ll be told to head back) and can only go so high in the air (although you can get high enough such that land-based attacks are negligible.

The two primary campaign modes give an up and coming pilot challenges among a larger story framework. The mission-based campaign assigns your pilot an ongoing list of missions to accomplish, such as taking out several planes, bombing a battleship, capturing an enemy airbase (through bombing), etc… After each mission is completed, you are presented with another one. Finish enough missions and you start over again on a new game layout with more challenging opponents. In this mode, you have three planes to use. If your plane is shot down, you can eject in order to fight another day (using up one of your spare planes.) You can even launch grenades on your way down, for a bit of revenge damage. If you time your ejection just right, you can even capture an opponent plane to continue the fight. Even the best pilots will take damage over time. This starts to slow your plane and affect its ability to fight. Heading back to base will fully repair your plane and (perhaps more importantly) reload your plane with missiles and bombs. After many, many missions are completed (100?), you are considered to have defeated this campaign mode and new ways to play are unlocked (including some pretty hard challenges.)

The second style of campaign is built around a series of island-hopping missions. You choose which island to attack on a grid, flying to that site and engaging in combat. Each island presents you with a set number and type of target that must be destroyed to finish that scenario. An example would be 4 planes, 10 tanks, 6 ships, etc… Destroy the correct number of the listed enemies and you finish the level and may now choose a new island to attack. Your goal is to get from the lower left of the grid to the upper right. In this mode, dying doesn’t end your game. Instead, you restart the level (or choose an new island) and lose time. You are given a specific number of days to finish the campaign. Losing a plane simply chews up more of your limited time. However, you also have a persona enemy on the board who starts in the top right and island hops every time you hop. They also get to progress to the next island when you fail a mission. Eventually, you will meet them in a level. They are particularly challenging as they are more intelligent than other planes and have significantly more firepower (machine guns, flamethrowers, etc…) Defeat your nemesis and finish the level and they will start all over again in the top right corner (slowly making their way back to you.)

In all modes, your plane can gain upgrades. During a fight, shooting down enemy planes will often provide an upgrade floating back to the ground. Fly through it to collect it and gain the power-up (more acceleration, better turning, more armor, able to carry more missiles/bombs, etc…) This is kept from mission to mission during the campaigns. In addition, your pilot earns experience point for every battle. As they level up, they have the option of starting out a battle with one or more upgrades already in place.

At first blush, Rogue Aces seems like a standard 2-D fighter plane shoot-em-up, but as you get into the game, the “rogue-like” part of the game begins to stand out. Progression between campaigns is minimal, limited to just a small boost here or there (from leveling up) but within a campaign you can eventually pump up your pilot to make it a true force to be reckoned with. Side scrolling shooters can wear thin, so I wasn’t sure if Rogue Aces would be able to hold my attention for too long. However, the challenge and progression of the campaign modes keep my interest high and even if I don’t succeed, the awarding of experience helps to give a feeling of progression in the game. As far as side scrolling shooters go, Rogue Aces is great. Fans of rogue-like games will also find something here to love. Obviously, if you just hate arcade shooters, Rogue Aces probably won’t win you over. For everyone else, it comes with a high recommendation.

Kid Factor:
As for gameplay, there isn’t any critical text so no age limit there. As for story and setting, there isn’t much to be concerned about. Your commanding officer mocks you whenever you die, but it’s rather mild (and if your child isn’t mocking you yet, wait a few years.) Explosions are pretty, but nothing particularly dark. One possible concern is the ability to shoot falling pilots (when they’re parachuting) out of the sky or hitting walking army men on the ground. On the other hand, enemy troops are tiny on the screen so if they are killed off it isn’t much more than a scattering of pixels.

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