Sky Force Reloaded walks a similar path to Sky Force Anniversary, and if you have played that title, you’ll have a pretty good idea as to what to expect with Reloaded. Sky Force Anniversary is a decent shooter that’s slightly let down by some questionable design choices, and sadly the same can be said about Sky Force Reloaded. Much like that comparison title, Reloaded starts you out as an overpowered flying T-101 killing machine before stripping all of those powers away and having you start out from scratch. It’s a clever way of showcasing what you could be if you put in the effort and time, but boy is it a slap in the face to go from hero to zero at the drop of a hat. Still, despite a few shortcomings Sky Force Reloaded is a surprisingly addictive top-down shooter that will keep you engaged and entertained for hours on end.
The gameplay is as straight forward as can be. You simply navigate the screen from a top-down perspective, blasting any foe that enters your field of view – be it on ground or in the air. Enemies will drop stars that can be picked up to then spend on upgrades for your ship, which is somewhat of a priority and certainly something the game makes you aware of quite swiftly. The difficulty curve is far from lenient or generous, with each level you acquaint yourself with often proving to be massively harder than the last. This almost forces you to go back and replay older levels to stay on-par with the difficulty of the game. Mercifully there’s more incentive to replay completed stages outside of earning more stars, thanks to the implementation of challenges you can undertake. The meat of the matter however is those all important stars, because you’ll be collecting enough of these to make Mario envious.
Sky Force Reloaded does a good job at making you feel as though you’re progressing at a fair pace. Stars will go towards a wide range of different unlocks, such as extra health, additional firepower, and other helpful titbits. The rate of stars you get on a typical run usually covers the cost of a single, which sits quite well with the amount that’s on offer. It’s worth pointing out that you don’t get any extra lives, meaning that if you die in the game you’ll need to go straight back to the beginning. That’s right. Don’t pass go, don’t collect two hundred dollars. It makes the flow of the game very tense and (at times) intimidating, which is something I would expect from any given top-down shooter worth its salt. Each level comes with an end-level boss, most of which are gigantic super-powered titans that give you a chase for your money. It’s not only engaging but immensely satisfying to finally overcome these huge foes once you suss out their attack patterns and gel with the gameplay mechanics. It’s even more satisfying to go back and kick some ass once you’ve beefed up your ship.
As aforementioned you can nab additional goodies by meeting specific parameters via the challenges. These objectives range from killing a set amount of enemies, taking no damage, and rescuing stranded survivors. These tasks are made marginally easier by collecting power-ups from specific enemies throughout each level, however the abilities don’t stick permanently and only last for the course of the level you’ve earned them from. Thankfully the controls are precise, right down to the slightest analog tap. I was half expecting enemies to overcrowd the screen but encounters instead tend to be manageable for the most part, relying heavily on your skill rather than reflex and luck. With that being said I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that Reloaded felt more like an expansion to Anniversary rather than a full-on new game, but there’s enough in the proverbial box to justify a purchase, especially if you’ve enjoyed the latter.
Unfortunately I have nothing positive to say about the plot, it feels so out place that I rather it hadn’t been there at all. It’s silly, it’s forgettable, and it’s totally unnecessary. I can’t really commend the visuals either, despite the official store listing stating that Reloaded houses “beautiful and immersive” stages, the game doesn’t do much to excite on this front. There’s enough life and design across all of the levels, but nothing that really goes that extra mile to stand out. It’s certainly got crisper graphics over its immediate predecessor, but it lacks personality and flare. When all is said and done you really wont be spending too much time taking in the sights. Most of your concentration will be steadily aimed at the challenges, the enemies, the power-ups, the stars, and the collectable bonus cards. The added option to play in local co-op is most definitely the best way to play. Stretching out the replay value even further is that you can also enter weekend tournaments to challenge your buddies on one of five crafted infinite stages. Safe to say that despite the flaws, there’s no arguing that you’re getting heaps of content for a more than affordable price.
Although this does indeed feel like an expansion to its predecessor, Sky Force Reloaded is a step up from Sky Force Anniversary. The visuals and design may be on the wayside, but the amount of content that’s been crammed into a game that costs just £7.99 / $9.99 is outstanding. There’s heaps of replay value to enjoy and the overall experience is both addictive and refreshing. The story may well feel tacked on but this is easy to overlook in the face of everything that you’re getting in return for your investment. Sky Force Reloaded is easy to pick up, hard to put down, and even harder to master. With a vast portion of collectables, upgrades and power-ups to chase after, this game will easily have you coming back for that proverbial one last attempt, time and time again. If you enjoy top-down shooters, Reloaded is far from the best, but it’s still an addition to the genre that fans wont want to pass on.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.