iDreams' Sky Force Reloaded [Free] is a great example of how to make a fun shoot 'em up that is traditional yet fresh. The situation isn't really surprising: you fly upward through levels, shooting both moving enemy formations and ground-based enemies, while trying to rescue humans that are on the ground. Those humans are a bit disappointed if you don't pick them up, but hey – sometimes dodging the plethora of enemy bullets is more important. It's not exactly a ground-breaking shmup, but it wins some points for variety. Levels occasionally throw some bullet-hell-esque hazards, and vary how the boss fights work. One level even takes your weapons away and forces you to dodge hazards and collect stars, the game's currency. There's a long-term progress objective here: you can upgrade your ship's health, weapons, and powerups. You can collect ship parts for new ships with different stats, with one ship unlockable if you played Sky Force 2014 [Free].

SFR_screenshot_1ASky Force Reloaded just winds up being very playable and good at what it's trying to do without reinventing the wheel. The game is challenging without being excessively so. The enemies are varied, and paced well throughout the levels to give you moments to breathe. The game has great visuals, but doesn't make it too difficult to tell enemies and the environment apart. The game controls perfectly as a one-handed operation, with the action slowing down when you lift your finger; this also lets you use your weapons and special powerups without requiring any crazy multi-taps or icons to use. There's both offset touch controls and a direct "ship moves where your finger is" control system.
Considering that iDreams made the first Sky Force back in 2004 for featurephones, it just goes to show that they know what they're doing, and they don't want to muck with what works too much.

Sky Force Reloaded's whole free-to-play situation is really odd. I say odd because it's a game that has some aspects where it could clearly tighten the screws a bit further than it does, and it has elements that other more shameless games use, but it eschews really trying to hose the player over in the name of making money.

How can you spend money? Well, the smart money is in buying the $1.99 stars doubler, which doubles all the currency you get. Next up is the $1.99 ship regenerator. Now, this is where the weirdness comes into play. See, you have a lives system, with your ships taking time to regenerate. Early on, this isn't a problem, necessarily. But the game doesn't show all its monetization cards right away, with ships taking increasing amounts of time to regenerate. This IAP should have just been unlimited lives, as even as I got into the later parts of the game, I rarely fell below the new max of 20 ships, with them regenerating quickly enough that playing a level would restore them. It also would be less confusing, for sure. You can also pay $1.99 to disable ads, which aren't really that annoying, though if I see those Game of War [Free] or Mobile Strike [Free] minigame ads again, with the way that they trick you into clicking on them after you get far enough in their minigames, I might just drop that $1.99. You can also pay $0.99 for 5000 coins, and watch video ads for various rewards.

SFR_screenshot_3A SFR_screenshot_2A

But what's crazy is that the game has kind of a convoluted monetization, with currency to get and wait timers and lives, but it could have been so much worse. It could not drop bonus powerups in the levels, or give you checkpoints you could pay for. There could be a hard currency. The game could make it a lot harder to unlock the various ships by having you buy boxes for the ship parts, or just letting you buy the ships outright. The card system, which includes cards with short-term bonus effects, can't be bought, and are rarely collected in the game itself. This game is so weird with its free-to-play aspects because its clearly trying to balance out aspects like gacha systems and social features with trying not to make players feel like they have to pay to win at this game. I feel like the game could offer up more things to spend the stars on, or even offering things like having the temporal cards be permanent upgrades you can acquire. I'd love to get rid of upgrade installation permanently, for example. But at least this is a game where you can spend $6 and eliminate most of the free-to-play of this game.

SFR_screenshot_5AYou have to enjoy repetition to a certain degree to enjoy Sky Force Reloaded. The game makes progression barriers to later levels be very high, with the need to get many trophies on earlier levels to advance to later levels. Once you get all 4 of the trophies on an earlier level, then that unlocks a harder difficulty, with 4 more trophies, and then a hardest difficulty beyond that. I should dislike this system, but yet, I actually kind of enjoy it. I'm not completely sure why, myself – the levels are all fixed sequences. But perhaps it's that each objective actually teaches you how to play the game better. Rescuing the humans and trying to not take any damage teaches you to watch enemy bullet patterns and to learn how to dodge them. The enemy kill percentage trophies force you to learn how to effectively take down enemy formations, and how to watch for where some of the less-prominent enemies and destructible objects might be. This is useful, but with the drawback that it winds up making the easy difficulties of later levels easy, because you're picking up the skills to beat them well before you unlock them.

You will be replaying levels a bunch, but it helps that the game avoids a lot of frustration. The levels aren't that long, and often times you have recourse to avoid what thwarted you, whether that be a new upgrade or an additional powerup. Plus, the game is just so gorgeous and plays so well that it's something I want to play again and again. And I have done just that. Not to mention, some of the social features, like being able to fly past player beacons in-game and trigger star rewards for beating them is fun. Like the rest of the game, I don't fully understand how it works, like it if triggers a notification, or if it gives people a gift like I get from others occasionally, but its still a cool feature. The game has iCloud support, but sadly the Apple TV version has yet to hit. It might be a separate release – Sky Force Anniversary is a TV version of Sky Force 2014, and it uses a simpler pay-once model.

I highly recommend giving Sky Force Reloaded a shot. It's a fun, well-made shoot 'em up with some unique quirks to it. In fact, I'd go so far to say that it's my favorite shoot 'em up in recent memory, probably going back to .Decluster Zero [$4.99] at least. Whatever shortcomings its unique aspects offer, it just winds up being, but I've found myself losing a lot of time to this one, with its challenges being rewarding to conquer. Prepare to have a lot of fun with this game.

TouchArcade Rating

  • PoloBaquerizoH

    What's the difference between this one and the original available on ios?

    • Samhain666

      It's a whole new game, new levels, etc.

      • jane7961

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  • ShinHadoukin

    So pay $6, still not free of F2P stuff, gets credit for not being as F2P as it could be, & reeks in a 5 star review. I guess pretty graphics go s long way. It's a fun game but why pay and still be limited even if less limited after paying?

    • ShinHadoukin

      ...Reels in a 5-star review...

    • Bytebrain

      Because the game is that good!
      Also, when you pay the 6$, there really isn't any free to play mechanic anymore?
      The wait or pay for upgrade installations, is a design choice, and it helps with the longevity of the game. We have to have something to spend our stars on.
      For me it's the shmup of the decade.

    • Calvin Hodgson

      Only thing really worth it is the star doubler. If you have a life, ship regeneration is a non issue.

    • Design by Adrian

      If you can enjoy the game without paying, or with IAP worth the same amount as a premium (not like Dungeon Keeper), I agree that score shouldn't be affected.

  • junkyardheart

    Add junkyardheart in Game Center for exchanging gifts in Sky Force Reloaded.

  • Spudboy

    GOTY 2016. Nothing in the Apple App Store even comes close.

    • Gray Games

      Actually the mechanics they use are already in apocalypse meow which is an amazingly great shmup. This sky force comes really close to it

      • Spudboy2012

        I'll have to check that out.

      • Spudboy2012

        $49.99 IAP - Yeah I'll stick with my first conclusion. Not to mention cats versus dogs? How lame is that?

      • Spudboy2012

        It's not terrible and had Sky Force not been invented I might've actually played it. But for now - Delete.

      • Quan M. Ngo

        Right. Nothing in Apocalypse Meow is better than in Sky Force. But the 2014 version is way better than the Reloaded version, IMO

  • rezn

    I was expecting this game to take a nice while to hit the App Store. And then earlier this week, there it was. I still play the 2014 edition. And it still stands up to every new game out today. Also I quickly paid for all the optional IAP's. Even clones of this are fun. But nothing compares to this game in its genre for me. It's suburb.

  • Jackaluk

    Controller support please, crying out for it!

    • Von Strubel

      no, this is great with touch controls.

      • Jackaluk

        Give us both then (:

  • metalsquid

    Don't like the level design on this one. 2014 was more interesting and varied. Also the voice acting on reloaded is cringeworthy. The weapon upgrading feels different too. Just downloaded 2014 again to confirm and it's a much better game all around. Sorry, can't recommend reloaded over 2014.

  • sceaduwulf

    I'm disappointed. I loved the initial game, so I instantly downloaded and purchased the double stars upgrade, as I remembered it was worth it. While I'm not sorry about the couple dollars - a good indie dev is certainly worth this and more - I hoped for a bit more. A couple of hours in the game, as far as I can see it's the same game, albeit more difficult and tedious and with a few cosmetic changes.

  • Valen Schaefer

    So, silly question! How do you even get to the in-app purchases? I search everywhere within the game and can't find any of them!

    • Steve Jaworski

      In the hangar, look at the top left of the screen. I am absolutely loving this game!

    • Spudboy2012

      You have to play for a while for the store to show up.

  • daniel0025

    I kinda liked the first game, but the grinding was a serious issue. Then came Air Attack 2, with its destructible environments, dramatic soundtrack and premium, not to mention the absolutely gorgeous graphics. You know, this game just raised the bar on what a shmup has to do to be a classic, and Sky Force Reloaded won't cut it. The grinding thing is really annoying, upgrades are slow. I really hoped there could be a premium version without the pointless repetition this one makes you go through. It would be a much much better game. And if it doesn't happen, let's just hope there will be a bigger and better Air Attack 3.

    • Spudboy2012

      One mans grind is another mans bliss. Never felt I was ever 'grinding'. I have over a million stars stock piled in 2014.

  • Andrea De Pasquale

    Just a little question:
    Where are in app purchases in the game?

  • Daniel Maslo

    I loved the 2014 version, love this one too so far. One question: Do you need to upgrade each plane separately?

    • Calvin Hodgson

      No, upgrades carry across all planes.

      • Daniel Maslo

        To be expected, but one never knows. Thank you.

  • jasondragon

    How do you use cards once you have them? Or does only one work at a time??

  • Valen Schaefer

    Has anyone found card #24? It's the only card I need to complete the collection!

    I think it has something to do with the last generator you come across in every stage!

  • Valen Schaefer

    So the last card I needed was acquired on stage 8/insane difficulty! Also, it has nothing to do with that last generator!

    • JeffSkeeve

      I got it on stage 6 hard diff. Does it do anything besides making your plane look dark?

      • Valen Schaefer

        It'll give you a 10% end-level score bonus, provided you have all the other cards in your collection!

      • JeffSkeeve

        Oh, so that's what it does, LOL! I never noticed that.
        Well, I guess it's time to download Sky Force Reloaded.

  • NeoZeitGeist

    The one thing that I would love and really put the game over the top is MiFi support.

  • Don Draper

    HI guys, I'm a big fan of the the sky force titles, what would you recommend me in the same category?

  • Liu

    I got it, remain 1 plane only.

  • Rohit Chopra

    CAN somebody tell me what it the icon on stage TWO ( 2 ) is about ... when i saw this icon , i started to play it out of curiosity that ive never seen such an icon on any stage till now ... after i started the level , when 8 was half way through , I found a diffent colored wingman/people/pilot (etc etc) with a different colored exclaimation mark ... i rescued him too along with all others . But nothing special seems to be there ... has someone else seen it too ...
    PLZ ENLIGHTEN ME ... Thanxxxx

  • Alex

    Has anybody been able to play this game using controller of any type and not just your finger on the screen. I actually played this game on my Android octa-core TV box and projector. I use Logitech wireless mouse and keyboard. I'd rather use a Bluetooth game controller, is that possible please let me know if anyone's been able to do it?

  • Nathan Walker

    I cant seem to purchase the upgrades with my iPhone 7 plus on iOS 11. I want to buy the star doubler and 5000 stars but nothing happens when clicking on purchase button

Sky Force Reloaded Reviewed by Carter Dotson on . Rating: 5