Tuesday, February 5

Review: Sky Gamblers - Afterburner [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Flight combat / dogfighting games are always interesting to check out since finding a way to make them complicated enough to keep them challenging without tipping too far and detracting from the experience being fun is tricky. Coming over from success in the mobile space Sky Gamblers: Afterburner is meant to be an upcycled title, featuring solid physical controls and support for online play. While it does play reasonably well, and may satisfy for a little bit, it struggles a bit to elevate itself above blandness though.

Starting with the positive visually it has some tricks up its sleeve that, when viewed without looking too closely to see some lower-quality textures, look reasonably impressive. As long as you don’t pay too much attention as you fly close to the ground it looks pretty great. Elements on your HUD make sense and work well without being too intrusive, and controls may be a bit on the basic side but that’s fine since the goal seems to be to skew towards an arcade-like feel. The fact that there’s online support is commendable, I suppose, but simply from experience with indie games online tends to be a ghost town aside from the initial launch period so the fact that you can’t at least dogfight against bots while you wait is a misstep and will at least contribute to it being more empty.

Starting with a massive issue no matter how many times I completed missions my progress was never saved, meaning I can’t speak to what happens when you level up. Granted, this is a bug that will no doubt get fixed, but it is unfortunate. Possibly more concerning is just no matter whether I moved up the difficulty to Hard or took off auto-aiming, in general the aerial combat just never got very tense or exciting. Part of the issue simply may be the era and speed you’re flying at. Your challenge is to create some distance and then come back around to do a run on more stationary targets and to try to bob and weave when dealing with ones in the sky. Taking out your target provides some satisfaction but overall it’s a bit on the sterile side. You’ll need to deploy your flares to try to minimize being hit with missiles, so you can take damage and get taken out, but I just never got that adrenaline rush I look for when playing this sort of game.

Throw in the somewhat bare bones production values tied to stringing together the story and Sky Gamblers: Afterburner may be somewhat satisfying for people looking for an arcade dogfighting experience but it has issues that hold it back. While most of its competition is space based, and nothing else is set in the same era, unless you’re really craving modern flight combat there are simply better options on the system. Hopefully with some refinement and perhaps even moving back to an earlier era we can see better results next time.

Score: 5.5

  • Looks pretty good with some varied environments to fly in
  • For the most part while the controls are simplified they work well

  • A bug that prevented me from keeping earned experience to level up
  • Aerial combat tends to be a bit sterile and lacking in excitement
  • While online support is nice in theory the lack of bots to fill things in make it likely it will mostly end up being unused based on experience with indie online titles in general