Snakehead Software’s Flying Aces bills itself as “the first true dogfight Combat Flight Simulator for the iPhone and iTouch,” which may very well be true; this game makes more of an attempt to provide realistic aerial combat than games like SciFly: Dogfight. That’s all well and good, but we’re reasonably sure that real dogfighting isn’t this much of a snoozefest. Flying Aces holds some limited cosmetic appeal, but the gameplay has more holes in it than a triple-strafed fusellage.
Flying Aces is all about piloting an F-15 Eagle over the Persian Gulf and shooting down enemy jets (they look a little like MiGs, but who knows). From your vantage inside the cockpit, you look out over a vast emptiness–your choice of either desert or ocean–and watch bogeys move around on your radar screen. You have three lives to spend getting as many of these buggers in front of you and shooting them down, one by one.
And that’s where the game begins and ends. There’s no campaigns or levels whatsoever; instead, you progress through “waves” as you shoot down enemy planes, as in an old-school arcade game. As you rack up kills, the game gradually gets harder, but it’s a very, very slow burn. The first several planes you kill don’t even really fight back, and you are much more likely to die by crashing into the ground than by enemy action for the first ten or fifteen minutes of gameplay… if you are patient enough to play that long.
The dogfighting action isn’t any more compelling. There are technically three flavors of weapon–a regular cannon, a power cannon, and a heat-seeking missile–but you will do the majority of your damage with the standard gun. The other two are empty at the start of the game, and picking up ammo for them is a pain. Other power-ups, like a speed boost and chaff, might be useful if the bad guys were more aggressive, instead of flying around aimlessly like Blue Angels rejects.
It’s too bad that the game’s no fun, because it’s not a bad-looking flight sim. Your plane’s HUD has cool scrolling altimeter and bearing lines, just like the real deal, and the game runs very smoothly. The two backgrounds are attractive, too, although they’re devoid of landscape features. We also like the subtle clicking and beeping sound effects, which remind you that you’re supposed to be sitting in a high-tech cockpit, surrounded by danger.
Instead, playing Flying Aces makes you feel like an insect trapped in an enormous glass bottle; all you can do is pull endless loop-de-loops and try to swat as many fellow gnats as you can. The game is clearly unfinished, almost to the point of comedy–there’s no menu screen for adjustments to sound levels or control sensitivity, and you can’t even pause the game once you’ve started–but we can’t imagine that many customers are going to find this joke funny at $7.99. Developers, please take note: the App Store is not your beta testing pool.