Minis Review – Sky Force

January 12, 2011Written by Paulmichael Contreras

Infinite DreamsSky Force was an instant classic when it released in 2005 on the Symbian, Windows Mobile and Palm mobile platforms. The game has since been ported over to the iPhone, and it has finally made its way over to the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable by way of the PSN Minis program. Sporting retro top-down gameplay and 3D graphics, does this game handle well on these consoles?

Sky Force‘s premise is simple – you pick from three ships and three difficulty levels, and start from any level you have reached in the campaign, of which there are eight in total. The only difference between the difficulty levels is how often enemies fire and how high of a percentage of enemies in the level you have to destroy in order to pass it. That’s right, you don’t simply reach the end of the level and move on to the next – if you haven’t destroyed enough enemies you’ll have to do it again, with the same score and weapons as what you began the level with.

The graphics here look great on the PSP for a Minis title. The background is rendered in 3D, and scrolls along at a nice click while the enemies drop in on you from all sides. The enemies and your own aircraft are all two-dimensional sprites, and fit right in. Throughout each level there are also people to rescue on the ground, but because they are so small and consist of only a handful of pixels, often with the chaos of all the firepower they are hard to spot. The problem is exacerbated on the PS3 thanks to scaling.

Autofire is constantly on, with no way to stop your ship from firing. Yet at the end of each level you are given an accuracy score, which is practically guaranteed to climb no higher than 40 percent if you are lucky. The audio is also somewhat of a letdown. While the tunes themselves just scream retro, the volume is quite low and the tracks are short and repetitive. There is a nice synthetic-sounding voice effect applied when you rescue people, along with decent explosion effects.

What would a shoot ’em up game be without powerups? You start the game with a rather weak shot, but that can be upgraded until you are launching what are essentially dual fireballs at your enemies, along with missiles that get more frequent as they get upgraded. A laser can also occasionally be picked up, which is limited to a few uses and best saved for end-level bosses. A separate highscore table for each difficulty level is a good addition for anyone looking to better themselves or compete with friends (passing the handheld of course, what with this being a minis title and thus not wireless-enabled). The levels are of a good length, usually around five minutes or so. The last few levels really ramp up in challenge no matter what difficulty level you pick, so fans of this genre should be happy.

Dual boss!

When you get right down to it, this game is tailor-made for those who want to feel like they are back in the arcade playing 1942 or similar titles. The game’s framerate remains rocksteady throughout every level, and at times there are so many bullets and enemies flying across the screen that you may even lose sight of your plane. It is a fine example for the genre, but does not introduce anything new to the game that wasn’t there over five years ago. Sky Force is a fun diversion, and fans of the top-down shoot ’em up genre should definitely consider picking this up.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Great graphics for a Mini title, framerate does not dip.

+ High score tables and multiple difficulty levels add replayability.

– Game is identical as it was over five years ago, audio can get repetitive.

7 out of 10