Throw on your helmets Flyboys! It’s time to relive some of the most famous and infamous aerial battles in history in All-In! Games Red Wings: Aces of the Sky. In Red Wings, you can join the Triple Alliance and take control of the top dog himself, The Red Baron. Or you can skim the skies hunting for the Baron as an elite squadron from the Triple Entente. With two campaigns attempting to show both sides of The Great War, lackluster mission design and rough AI hold back what is often a fun arcade dogfighter.
Red Wings’ premise is delightfully simple. Select a plane with stats to your liking. Hit the skies and complete whatever objective is presented to you. Sometimes it’s as simple as clearing an arena to rack up a high score. Other times you’ll need to protect friendly balloons from waves of enemy warplanes. These mission types are easy to understand but with each of the two campaigns offering twenty or more missions, and there only being about five types, they become extremely tired. Timed ring obstacle courses and bombing run levels are also inserted to break up the action but aren’t really anything to write home from the war about. Especially the former ring course levels that are sometimes confusing to follow.
Flight controls feel great with quick turnaround and barrel roll moves (which can be upgraded via the games’ basic skill trees) being fast ways to track down tricky enemies. Some engagements, however, won’t even require any tracking as AI pilots will witlessly slam their planes into you. Or even worse, repeatedly bounce into the boundary of the arena.
Intel from the front suggests when at their best these AI pilots come in a variety of skill levels. Some pilots hit the battlefield in armored warplanes, able to absorb more damage. Others are absolute showman, able to pull off evasive maneuvers much as you can. And with zeppelins to shoot down, you’ll want to master and upgrade abilities such as calling in your squadron and utilizing a fatal pistol takedown shot on weak adversaries to stay alive in the skies.
While the flow of Red Wings combat can be absolutely thrilling at times, downright stupid AI and very strict star requirements for levels sometimes took me out of the high flying action. This is especially a problem considering the only way to level up abilities on the skill tree is to earn more stars. Smooth controls and banking a huge chain of confirmed kills is by far the strength of Red Wings, while everything else could use some work.
Red Wings focuses on the story of the German Empire Ace and the most notable fighter pilot in history Manfred von Richthofen better known as The Red Baron. We also follow a squad of Triple Entente pilots assembled to combat the Baron. All story is presented through comic panels narrated in an old-timey voice filtered through an old-timey radio effect. It’s nothing special, but it’s serviceable to convey the struggle World War I fighter pilots experienced.
These experiences of the earliest Air Forces range from a sense of undeserved fame to a disconnect between the planes being shot down and the pilots losing their lives inside of them. It’s decently deep for an arcade dogfighter and adds something extra where you’d least expect it.
While the two campaign approach is a great prospect in a title centered around two rival squadrons, the previously mentioned reused mission design detracts from what could have been a major selling point.
Authentic feeling old war radio fuzz fills the airways properly to bring the early twentieth century to life. Music is sparse with about two menu and loading tracks and two battle tracks that fit the mood well enough. Propeller sounds are the same across the games eight different warplanes. It suffices for the title’s purpose of quick arcade action but won’t have any World War I buffs jumping out of their recliners with glee.
A true highlight of Red Wings is the visual style, choosing vibrant cel-shading over dark and realistic tones. Bold outlines of explosions and clouds fill the sky in a colorful way from the locales over European fields and cities, to Ottoman deserts. Flair for your high-speed death machine is obtainable by achieving certain parameters in missions, so if ornate designs or magma effects are up your alley, they’re available if you’re skilled enough.
While it isn’t quite the war hero we can pin medals on upon its return from the front, Red Wings offered me the most fun in arcade-style dogfights I’ve had since Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge. Story and Survival modes are easily cleared in around eight hours and true completionists can spend even more time hunting for every star across all the missions on offer. Considering both of these modes are playable in local co-op, it’s a must-play for anyone who absolutely loves flight combat and owns a Switch. Everyone else can give it a look for a tail-spinning time of a weekend despite its obvious issues.