This is your pilot speaking. Please secure all your valuables and keep your tray tables to an upright position. As we close in on the stratosphere, please look outside your windows. You should be able to see the Sky Force Reloaded taking down the bad guys. This shoot ’em up, developed by Infinite Dreams, features unlockable ship upgrades and a range of difficulties.
Moving past the carnage, please hold onto something as we leave the atmosphere for the dark void of space. It’s only among the stars that we can hit those sweet brodies. Catze’s Star Drift is a top-down racing game where you don’t have breaks. Therefore, you’ll be taking every corner like those street toughs in Tokyo. Please consider both these games as we reenter Earth’s gravitational pull. Thank you so much for flying with Coverage Club Airlines, and may you have a pleasant tomorrow.
Sky Force Reloaded
Covered by Samuel Guglielmo
The Sky Force series has a rather unlikely start. The first entry came out in 2004 for Pocket PC, of all places. It also has a rather confusing naming system. Sky Force Reloaded was originally released in 2006 for the same phones, then remade under the name Sky Force in 2011 for PSP, and is now getting a second remake back to its original name. I dare you to say that five times fast. So how does this SHMUP/RPG combination hold together?
At its absolute basic, the game is a pretty straightforward SHMUP. You’ll fly vertically and shoot at waves of enemies while dodging their shots at you. Unlike many SHMUPS, you’re not a one-hit kill which helps relieve some of the pressure. Instead, as you kill enemies you’ll earn points that you can then use to upgrade various parts of the ship. Before long you’ll be able to take multiple shots, fire rockets, lasers, and deploy bombs.
Despite all this, Sky Force Reloaded does a pretty good job in making sure you don’t become overpowered. I often find myself blowing up in new stages before I learn how to avoid shots and gather more points for better upgrades. Of course, this also means I had to repeat the same levels a few times so I could get what I needed. Thankfully, stages aren’t long enough to really bother me.
Of course, it’s not a SHMUP if levels don’t end in crazy boss fights, and Sky Force Reloaded has those in spades. From giant tanks to absurd aircraft, each level tops off against an unbelievable foe that is both a joy to behold and fight. They quickly became the highlight of the game, which I’ll admit isn’t that unusual for a SHMUP, and I was always looking forward to the next one. Even if most of them kicked my ass and required me to try again several times.
All of this wraps up in a pretty package that looks great. For some reason, the comparison that keeps running through my head is that Sky Force Reloaded looks like what I’d expect a movie to show in the background. This is a highly detailed game with great looking action. Maybe the only exception to this is the character portraits, which just look… bad. Like, these people are hideous and I’m not sure it was an artistic choice bad.
If you’re a fan of SHMUPS then Sky Force Reloaded is completely worth checking out. Even if you’re not, the game serves as a fantastic starting point for looking further into the genre. While it may not quite edge out either Sine Mora or Raystorm as my favorites, it’s one I can easily and wholeheartedly recommend.
Covered by Robert N. Adams
I’m not a huge racing game fan, but I do like them and I’ve spent quite a few hours in some of the classics of the genre like the early Need For Speed games. Star Drift is a top-down racer that calls itself “the ultimate combination of racing and drifting”. I was all too happy to give it a spin.
If you’re not a gearhead, you might not have much of an understanding of what drift racing is. The short of it is that way back in the ’70s, Japanese touge racers found that it was a good bit of fun (and in some cases, faster) to forcibly slide the rear of their cars out during a turn while navigating the many mountain passes the country has to offer. This late-night racing scene was strong for decades and is still going on today, ultimately bleeding over into popular culture through the Initial D manga and movies like The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Drifting has since become a sport unto itself with its own racing leagues and rules.
Star Drift doesn’t really have mountain pass courses in the sense that a drifting enthusiast might hope for. The tracks are very similar to circuit races or rally races. Players begin the game with a short tutorial and they then progress to a hub world where they can drive around and get a feel for their car. Races are activated by driving into an icon on the map. Players can earn stars depending on how well they perform in the race, and a certain number of stars are required to progress to the next area. Each area of the game features a different type of terrain; you begin on dry asphalt and later progress to wet asphalt, sand, mud, and even snow.
One key thing is missing in Star Drift – brakes. That’s right, this is a racing game without any brakes whatsoever. A patch eventually added a handbrake, but standard brakes just aren’t a thing in this title. The store page touts this as a novelty, but it came off as more of an annoyance than anything else. Anyone who spends five minutes learning about racing (nevermind drift racing!) knows that brakes are kind of an important part of the package. They’re used to correct errors and control your vehicle through tricky turns. Without these, Star Drift becomes frustratingly challenging – and not in a good way.
I also had several issues with the controls. I began the game using the mouse and keyboard and could just barely control my car. After about 20 minutes, I decided to switch to an XInput gamepad and found that the key bindings would just not save properly. Those that did would often malfunction – my “emote” button (which displays a silly emoji face above my car) was continually firing throughout the course of the game. As best as I could tell, my controller was not malfunctioning in any noticeable way.
An Xbox 360 controller worked much better, but I still had the issue of the saved bindings not sticking properly. You configure keys through the standard Unity engine menu before launching the game. This means that changing your controls necessitates a restart. The controls have technical labels like “Accelerate (+)” and “Accelerate (-)”, too – something that led to a good 15 minutes spent just trying to figure out which buttons did what in the game.
Star Drift might make for an interesting party game where you can sit down with some friends and play it couch co-op style, but the driving is so terribly frustrating and setting up the controls is such a pain that I can’t really say it would be worth it. I spent two hours of gameplay with this title and I walked away more disappointed than anything else.
Star Drift was played on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer.
What do you think of this week’s Coverage Club selections? Do you know of an overlooked game that deserves another chance? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to follow our Steam Curator to keep up to date with all our reviews.