041723_largerHaving never played any of the previous games in the series, Sky Gamblers: Cold War [$4.99] was an entirely new experience for me.

I’m no stranger to flight sims, having played many of these games, from the venerable Flight Simulator series, and got my start with the - still classic - Chuck Yeagar Air Combat that came out over twenty years ago for DOS. This game is my first foray into iOS flight sims.

Upon first starting the single player campaign mode, you’re told to complete the tutorial missions, to get a feel for how the game plays. So I did. You’re guided on how the HUD works, how to control your plane, weapon basics, giving commands, and performing special maneuvers.

While informative, I found the tutorials to proceed by very slowly. Everything is text based, there is no voice guiding you through the tutorials, and I found that the speed of the text was too slow; often times, I was left waiting until the next instruction decided to pop up. Sometimes the game didn’t always recognize what it told me to do; for example, while learning to take off, I was instructed to “accelerate and pitch up” to lift off the ground. I did as such, yet the game didn’t recognize this, and I had to restart twice to actually complete that tutorial.


My biggest gripe, and this is probably just me, is that the tutorial treats you like you’re incapable of understanding basic things. For example, we’re told: “Notice the speed is going up as we accelerate.” Clearly our speed will increase with acceleration; I’m surprised I wasn’t told that braking slowed the plane down.

After finishing the tutorial missions, I embarked on campaign mode and was thrust right into action, attempting to save a fellow pilot with a smoking engine and an enemy on his tail. This is where all your (not) hard-lived training comes into play. It doesn’t take long to knock the bogey out of the sky, and just as you do, you’re set upon by a group of enemies. After some more fighting, you head back to your base, only to be ambushed again.

en-US_iOS-iPad_2048x1536promo3And thus is the majority of the game. Aside from being one of the most forgettable characters in recent memory (who is apparently beset with laryngitis, but then again, so is everybody in this game), the mission structure is straightforward and boring. Aside from a couple of special sequences, such as the on-rails mission where you’re in control of a helicopter, there is no variation to what the game presents to you; the entirety of the game is devoted to killing Russian fighters. Now, being called Sky Gamblers: Cold War, that’s a safe assumption, but seeing as how you progress through several decades, the story becomes quite... pointless, really. You’ll get to pilot over ten different planes while completing the campaign, but they may as well all be the same.

Graphically, Sky Gamblers is decent. Planes have nice details to them, but the environments are bland and boring. There are a few tearing issues I noticed, most noticeably on the ground, and especially noticeable when you’re very high up. You might experience some temporary slowdown after crashing; it seems like the game can’t handle the explosion effects and needs time to bring the framerate back up.

Sky Gamblers doesn’t utilize sound very well, either. Bullets hitting planes sound very dull and tinny, and the rat-a-tat-tat machine guns sound muted. The hiss from a launched missile is about as good as the sound gets, and if you’ve seen one military movie or played one game with a military soundtrack, then you’ll already be bored of the music.

en-US_iOS-iPad_2048x1536promo5Controlling your planes can be a real hassle. It will definitely take some getting used to. The part that annoys me the most is that whatever position you’re holding your iDevice in is how the game calibrates and determines the “center”. So, if you’re tilting your iPad downward, that will be considered the default position. It’s nothing a pause, adjust and restart won’t fix, but is still annoying.

Fighting, the core of the game, is tedious as well. Your missiles seem to miss quite frequently, whether your enemies use flares or not. Despite following directly behind enemies, and not seeing flares pop up, my missiles still needed to strafe to either side and not even clip the target. Aside from your different missiles (single- and multi-target), you have a machine gun, a gun which is ridiculously hard to use. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of aim correction or auto-aim, so unless you’re basically nose-to-nose, the small crosshair you’re provided has a difficult time actually hitting.

Sky Gamblers features several single player modes outside of the campaign. Survival mode pits you against endless waves of enemies until you eventually succumb. Dogfight Missions send you to face off against an enemy. Once an enemy is killed, more are spawned, and of higher difficulty. So on and so forth. You also have standard fare, such as Free For All, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag. Rounding out the single player options is Free Flight, which lets you fly around relaxingly.

You have four ways to play against people: local WiFi, online, via Game Center, or Head to Head. There are various rooms you can join, using icons to designate what kind of game it is (a bird representing free flight, or a plane with two falling planes on either side, representing Last Man Standing). I had no issue getting into a multiplayer game, and it was seamless.

My favorite feature of multiplayer is the option of fighting all AI opponents, to let you work on controls, or to master maneuvers, or whatever your fancy.

There are two IAP’s for your enjoyment. You can purchase a content pack, which unlocks all planes and dogfights, and a paint pack, which unlocks plane customization.

To summarize, Sky Gamblers: Cold War is a mediocre action sim, whose enjoyment is seriously hampered by poor controls and a monotonous campaign. For fans of previous entries, it might be worth a test flight, but for everyone else, it’s an unpolished mess.

TouchArcade Rating

  • Newb

    Looks like a lot of time was spent on this game, can't wait to play

  • iarepan

    The Polish didn't have much of an airforce, James. That's an unfair conclusion, don't you think?

  • icoker

    I visit the forums, and not let these reviews sway my opinion.

  • islesfan

    The game is pretty good, but I found myself going back to Air Supremacy again, since it is still the best of the series.

  • Lamar Taylor

    I have to disagree with this review. It's obvious the reviewer never played any of the other games in the series or else he would know that the graphics, sound effects, and gameplay have improved.

    I wonder if the reviewer even played the game because the control set up can be changed. On my iPad 4 the graphics really pop and when playing this with a Bluetooth speaker the sound is great. Maybe I'm biased because I have all the Sky Gamblers and enjoy these type of flight games and think this new game is just pure fun. The reviews on the App Store are very high so most users seem to enjoy this game.

    • Karzay

      I agree. This review is unfortunate. The author admits he is completely new to iOS flight simulators.

      I'm curious as to how Eli assigns games to authors for review. Maybe there would be less conflict between the reviewers and TA's readership if Eli took in account whether or not the person doing the review is familiar with other games in the series and has a lot of experience with the genre?

      • MagiicMuffiin

        He clearly says he's not a stranger to flight sims and he's played a couple himself

      • Karzay

        And he clearly states he last played Flight Simulator (2006 being the latest) and he is new to the genre on iOS. Your point?

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        I think there'd be less conflict between reviewers and TA readership if commenters realized that reviews are an author's opinion and it's totally OK to disagree and have a completely different opinion yourself.

        I'm not sure why but lately it seems like commenters instantly jump to this whole "You're wrong" or "Someone else should have reviewed this" thing... Which kind of begs the question, if all you want is our reviews to be your own opinion parroted back at you, what's the point of even reading or having reviews at all?

      • Alex

        This has been going on for ages, not lately. I mean, the reviewer writes that all you do is kill Russian fighters in a Cold War game. I think people would like a more fair and less opinionated review system. That's not to say that a review will never be opinionated as it never could be (a review is by definition subjective), but at least the final rating will not take his/her opinions into play and use facts about the game. Explain why a game gets 3 stars with points that apply to every game instead of it feels like a 3 star game to me.

        You're always going to get people who disagree with a reviewer, but the frequency or quantity of people disagreeing could be reduced substantially with a fair rating system put into place.

        I feel like your blog site is a 2 1/2 out of 5 stars site. Now if I had a system in place that told you why, you could have learned from it and made some changes to be better (or in the case of your reviews, readers would or would not purchase a game based on it).

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        The frequency and quantity is actually incredibly small right now when you consider the traffic our reviews get compared to the people who post negative comments. We're talking 0.01% or so.

      • bilboa

        Agreed. I don't expect reviews by all reviewers to have some consistent point of view of all games. As long as the reviewer can write well, and explain why they feel the way they do, then I find it useful. It's fine to disagree with the reviewer, but it seems immature to think that someone else should've written the review just because you didn't agree with the reviewer's opinion.

      • Pray For Death

        Just wanna point out that this can be a poor indication of readers agreement. Many (most) people simply don't bother logging in and commenting even if they disagree with a review. Especially on mobile, where Disqus actively fights you when trying to log in and comment.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        I was specifically referring to the number of people who feel compelled to comment about how wrong we are. 😉

      • dancj

        You're not wrong about Disqus. I can manage it okay for TouchArcade, no no force on earth will get my iPhone to log into the IGN app.

      • Alex

        The same traffic might read those comments to see a readers opinion. Likewise, there are tons of threads in the forums where readers don't agree with the rating given to a game (Squids for one).

        I guess people might get my point, but ignore it entirely to feel like they are right, because the responses I get from mods are, "the frequency... is actually incredibly small..." and "reviews are an author's opinion..." instead of we should change the rating system so that regardless of the review written, the rating of the game is fair and unbiased, thus offering a novel way to approach an archaic and completely erratic process.

        When your reviews affect the development or sales of a game and potentially the demise (and you know they have a large effect - I remember when one review could make or break a game's sales), wouldn't it be better to stand up and make a change that betters the community? Don't we expect the same of Apple or other companies like when everyone was complaining about the rating system Apple used to calculate Top 100? By having reviews completely based on sole opinion, what is the point of a rating system on your part? It simply becomes a I feel this is worth x stars game. Why even include one if it means nothing?

        Now if you believe the idea of having a rating system based on fact makes sense, but it's just a matter of we don't feel like doing it, because we're perfectly happy with what we got, then I'll just drop this now. I'll be incredibly disappointed, because I have frequented this site for years, but I'll move on until I find a site I can depend on for more than opinions. Everyone's got an opinion. I can find hundreds of sites with those. I guess I expect more from this one, because I've made a home here in checking it daily.

        To be succinct, I believe the reviews are fine and people will disagree with them at times, but the rating system should be based on facts that apply to all games.

      • flashbackflip

        Good words.

        And frankly, i agree with previous commenters about wrong person writhing this review. He played Flight Simulator? REALLY? He hasn't played ANY previous games in SG series? REALLY? Then he OBVIOUSLY does not like this genre so much, so why bother to write a review? For money? REALLY?

        And you, Eli, can listen to yo fans, admit a fk up and get better, OR you can mumble about 0.01%

        No offense. Just a ridiculous rant i see here from TA side

      • Protoman

        Wow...I like how my opinion got booted. That's sort of not in the spirit of " it's all just opinions anyways" isn't guys?

      • Alex

        Thankfully, I read it before that happened.

      • Protoman

        At least someone got to. I said the older writing was good. Perhaps pointing out the grand scheme was a bit much though. lol

      • Karzay

        It's perfectly fine that a reviewer has a different opinion than mine. My point is that if the author reviews something, they should be speaking from a position of knowledge. It's makes the article more valid. And that's a little more than just playing a game on iOS in this genre for the first time.

        Look at it from a reader's perspective. If you like a certain genre of games, and you see an article on a new game in that genre, do you really want to read it only to find out that the author doesn't know a whole lot about the genre? You just wasted your time reading it, and yes, you might be a little disappointed. It's a problem of the quality of the article.

        I think this is a valid complaint, and I hope you can put some thought into this matter and not get too defensive about negative comments.

      • Lamar Taylor

        The very first sentence of the review says that the writer has never played any of the other games in this series. Those are his words and they show that he doesn't have knowledge of the series and as a result he can't tell how the game has changed or improved. He also shows his lack of knowledge in the game by mentioning poor controls. Anyone who has played the game more than once knows the controls can be changed with several options.

        I don't mind any reviewer giving their opinion..it's what he is paid to do. Don't get upset though when a reviewer posts false information and gets called out on it. You also can't skip to the fourth game in a series and expect to know what you are talking about in the overall series. That's like someone skipping to see Return of the Jedi and judging the Star Wars series based on only that movie...it's just not credible.

        I enjoy this reviews and enjoy hearing from others. If I post something that isn't true..I expect to be called out too.

  • themostunclean

    I have to agree. Unfortunately the series peaked two generations back.

    They seem to be churning out these games at too rapid a pace and each iteration is duller than the last.

  • toby7ten

    SEGA Afterburner is better then?

    • Alex

      Maybe not, but can you name something better? If not, then this review does well to point out good points (apparently few between) and it's bad points so a reader will be more informed.

  • Reignmaker

    A little surprising they botched something like this when this series is pretty much their bread and butter.

  • Jazzpha

    I don't really think it matters if the reviewer hasn't played the other games in the series, honestly. If this game didn't impress them very much, I don't think that viewing it in the context of previous entries would change their mind. The quality of the games might have improved over time, but if the latest itineration is still mediocre, you'd probably be thinking "They've had this many chances to get it right and this is what they come up with?"

    TL;DR not having played the previous games in the series doesn't make it impossible to judge this one accurately, since it stands alone and isn't explicitly linked to any previous installments.

    • flashbackflip

      Not playing previous games means givin no sht to the genre - so my question is - why start to review a genre you don't give a toss about?

  • mosquito60

    I wonder what kind of campaign the author would wish to have. In a air combat game the mission can't differ a lot I suppose.

    Also I don't understand how he can talk of "poor controls", it makes me believe, that he didn't realize, that there are different ways of controls to chose.

    Last but not least: that he has difficulties to hit something shows, that this game needs some skills, which you can't develop by playing it or just two days.

  • lanights

    Horrible review, yet again. Eli is on defensive, clearly.

Sky Gamblers: Cold War Reviewed by James Paterson on . Rating: 3