In a few ways, Strike Wing: Raptor Rising ($2.99) encapsulates a lot that we love in space shooters. Good controls, great visuals and hectic action make for a pretty fun gaming experience. While these reasons alone make Strike Wing a game worth checking out, a relatively simplistic mission system combined with an unlock grind that doesn’t provide much variety keep it from being a game worthy of more.
There’re typically a lot of elements at play in making a successful space sim, but I’d argue that well-done controls should make up the foundation of any game in the genre. In this regard, Strike Wing does a superb job. I found it incredibly easy to to get into, with controls that make piloting your spaceship a breeze. While players can choose between virtual joystiq and accelerometer based schemes, there really was no substituted for the default accelerometer controls.
Complementing Strike Wing‘s controls is a visual engine that boasts some pretty decent graphics for a space sim. Ship models are detailed, the liberal use of particle effects is pretty cool, and the frame rate is incredibly smooth and fast. The last point is particularly important since the high frame rate does a great job imparting that feeling of actually being in a fast-paced space dogfight. It sounds small, but it works well in Strike Wing especially since the actual missions lend themselves to arcade-style gameplay.
Rather than an over-encompassing story that has you traversing the galaxy (such as the Galaxy on Fire series) Strike Wing is made up of small self-contained episodic scenarios that put you in various roles. Some are relatively simple, such as a mission that simply charges you with taking on waves of enemies until you succumb, while others actually have achievable end-goals of taking down large ships or successfully escorting transports. Regardless of the mission type, the primary goal will be to take out opposition ships. Playing missions earn both experience and credits, which are used to unlock and purchase ships which then allow you to play more missions.
I can appreciate the missions for what they are, but I really wish Strike Wing had more going for it. As I mentioned earlier, Strike Wing is focused entirely on combat, meaning folks looking for any facets of exploration or trading need to look elsewhere. In addition, outside of unlocking (and purchasing) new ships there isn’t much in terms of an end-game except for trying to earn a higher score on the leaderboard. Sure, the Strike Wing boasts adaptable AI, but I found the changes in difficulty to not really impact the overall playthrough of missions. Even a simplified ship improvement system would have gone a long way towards improving replayability. As it is, while I did enjoy the variety in missions, I just wasn’t too big of a fan of the grind for experience and credits to buy the ships necessary to unlock said missions.
While a good space sim at its core, Strike Wing is still a game of tempered expectations. The actual space sim gameplay is refined with controls that really work well and a visual system that looks impressive on high end iOS hardware. The simple mission-based gameplay is also enjoyable, but the content at least on the onset feels constrained. Still, I have no problem recommend Strike Wing in its current state, although I hope that the developers treat this as a stepping stone to a more fleshed out space fighter.