Rogue Aces, from Curve Digital and developer Infinite State Games, is now out on Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch and Playstation Vita. Ideally suited for short playing sessions on the go, we tested the Vita version of the game.
I grew up playing 2D shoot ’em up games like P-47 Freedom Fighter and R-Type, and those are titles that have always stuck with me. I discovered a subgenre of the shoot ’em up in the early nineties that focused more on 2D dogfighting, but can’t for the life of me think of the titles. I do remember one game that featured it though: DuckTales: The Quest for Gold featured missions where you, as Launchpad, took to the skies in a similar fashion.
Perhaps those dogfighting games were more forgettable because of their nature – aside from the DuckTales game, there wasn’t ever really much of a campaign in place, or well-developed stories or characters. Not that R-Type was a story-driven epic, but there was always this ‘ultimate goal’ to push towards. The emphasis in dogfighting games was always mostly on gameplay, and that’s exactly what Rogue Aces is all about as well.
After a very short tutorial, the in-game general tells you that “Oops, we started a war!” and you can begin the campaign. Talk about having very little in terms of a story… I would steer clear of the campaign initially though, because hidden away in the menu are a couple of additional tutorials that are actually quite useful and feature some more advanced techniques.
Cover those, and you’re good to go for the campaign, which feels like an endless string of missions – some of which can be completed in under a minute. You take off from your air carrier, take out a few enemies and/or buildings, and return to base. Here, you refuel and launch again, perhaps this time to save a few POWs or destroy enemy stockpiles. You have the ability to return to base mid-mission as well, which you’ll want to do whenever you use up your missiles and bombs but still need to take out armored tanks or buildings. Returning to base also repairs your aircraft, but trying to fly back might see you being chased by enemy planes intent on making sure you don’t get that far.
Enemies that you take out frequently drop crates with powerups that you’ll want to grab as they enhance things like your turning speed, firing rate or ammo capacity. Although it’s tempting to return to base right away, it’s often worthwhile to take out a few enemies for these power-ups before you do. You can’t linger though, because you have a limited amount of fuel (they’ll fill you back up on the carrier though).
I had some initial trouble with the controls, accidentally ejecting from the plane when I wanted to drop a bomb or two. Luckily, there’s a great menu that allows you to remap the controls however you like – no more accidental plane losses for me! As you play, the menu also reveals additional game modes that includes defending friendly bombers and missions with an increased difficulty level. For a “simple arcade game”, Rogue Aces is surprisingly versatile with its (six) game modes and intricate controls that are hard to master.
Rogue Aces’ biggest problem is that, despite the power-ups and good amount of content, things start feeling repetitive after a while – a common problem with games that feature procedurally generated levels. Because of this, if you wanted to push through to the end of the campaign (with about 100 missions!), you’ll probably grow tired of the game before you reach the end. That’s why I’m glad the game supports being able to jump out of the game and jump back in later, so I can limit my gameplay sessions. Cross-save (with the PS4 version) is also supported, but I think I’ll stick to short and sweet sessions on my Vita when I have a few minutes to spare – even if it’s just a five minute period.