Wings of Valor [$1.99], the “Wings of Fury” spiritual remake by Idea Spoon, is a rare gem in the app store - a game that might not sell you on its screenshots alone, but is an automatic purchase for gamers “in the know.” Based on a classic game for the Amiga/PC/Apple II, Wings of Valor has a familiar, nostalgic feel to it, with all the best parts of an arcade shooter and a surprisingly complex strategy sim.
The base gameplay is straightforward and simplistic, as illustrated by the image-only help file. Take off from your carrier, and destroy your targets. Targets range from islands, to other planes, to ships, and you’re given an entire (unlockable) arsenal for dealing with the threats. For people such as myself, who never played the original, it may take you a few tries to even get off the ground. For instance: mashing the engine button over and over to get it started (just like a real old plane!), or trying to fly off the right side of the carrier and taking a bath instead. Missions are relatively quick, and can easily be squeezed into a bus ride, a work break, or any spare 5-10 minute period of time.
Once you get in the air, the game plays like a dream. Lovingly handcrafted visuals and spot on controls make you wonder why the side-scrolling fighter pilot genre died off so long ago. Aerial combat is a joy, pure and simple: the banks, the arcs, the turns, it all manages to feel “simulationy” and “arcadey” at the same time. Touch controls suffer somewhat from the usual lack of physical feedback, but not as much as you would think with this sort of game.
Dogfighting lacks a bit of challenge, as the enemy AI seems all too easily confused when you turn around directly behind them and light up their tail. Strafing runs are exciting, and can prove to be a test on resources - are you more of a T-16 piloting, womp-rat bullseyeing sharpshooter, or a light-up-the-jungle, empty the plane sort of carpet-bomber? The game plays into both strategies, but the latter sort will have to get very used to landings/takeoffs while they return to their ships to replenish their arsenal.
The camera work is spot on, zooming in as you approach the ground, adding to the feeling of speed. The music is old-timey, “Welcome to the world of tomorrow!” radio static fanfare, and adds to the retro feel. Sound effects are sufficiently explodey and ratatatty, and the particle effects are excellent, whether it's planes smoking and plummeting to the earth or water kicking up as you bring death to dozens of unseen ocean critters. It is incredibly difficult to believe that the entire game was put together by a single person.
With plenty of challenges, unlockables, an upcoming iPad version, and promised updates to the visuals and AI, Wings of Valor makes for a very attractive package at $1.99. For people who have boldly proclaimed the death of classic gaming at the hands of iOS, I can only gesture wildly in this direction - here is a game with no IAP, no freemium model, just classic, old-school gameplay at its finest. Whether you’re a fan of the genre or completely new to this style of game, here is a something that is very worth your time.
The first time you have a bogey on your six, you tear off straight upward at top speed, and see the stars for just a second before stalling out, turning back towards your prey, spitting hot death, you'll get it. Get it?
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