It seems as though the App Store–like most platforms that have a quick development cycle–is susceptible to genre boomlets. So far, we’ve started with a torrent of Match-3 games, moved on through a bunch kart and arcade racers, and briefly sampled the Tower Defense fad. Now it’s time for flying games to have their time in the sun. SciFly: Dogfight jettisons realistic flight mechanics to concentrate on afterburner-powered combat, with good results. Its nimble controls and fluid graphics deliver a fun, focused experience that’s worth revisiting, even after you’ve blown through the game’s scanty content.
As the name suggests, SciFly: Dogfight is all about jetting up into the wild blue yonder and gunning down bogies. From a behind-the-plane camera angle, you twist and turn your iPhone to pilot your futuristic jet fighter around a circular arena. The entire game boils down to getting on the bad guys’ sixes while guarding your own; you follow them around until you can catch them in your crosshairs, and then you press a touch button to let them have it. Other touch buttons give you access to a limited afterburner, which quickly recharges after use, as well as the ability to roll in either direction for sharp turns. Flying feels very intuitive under these circumstances, and pulling off tricky maneuvers like loops and Immelman turns is no problem at all. You’re as free as a bird!
In a basic game of SciFly: Dogfight, the objective is to earn eight points in under three minutes. Each kill counts for two points, while getting pulverized takes away a point, so, if all goes well, four quick kills wins you the round. There’s also a time attack mode where you play for a minute at a time and try to rack up as many kills as possible. In either case, there are usually four or five enemy jets torching around at any given time, so there’s no shortage of targets (and threats). Enemies can take a number of hits before blowing up, depending on your weapon, so you have to work to keep a bead drawn on them. There’s nothing more satisfying than following a baddie through a long chain of evasive actions, and then tagging him with a well-placed shot. If you win a round, you get a large number of points you can spend to unlock new ships and arena planets; if you lose, you’ll only earn a handful of points.
There are only four jets and three planets, so the unlocking process goes fast. The jets all have different weapons–like a heat ray, a shotgun, or homing missiles–that recharge slower or faster, so they do play a little differently. It would be better still if they had different speeds, accelerations, and armor as well. The new planets look cool, but they don’t really offer anything new in terms of gameplay. Once you’re through with the jets and the planets, there’s not really anything else to do. You can change difficulty levels, but we found them to be poorly spaced; regular is easily mastered, while Ace is very difficult. Although it’s fun enough to keep playing anyway, the game could sorely use a story, a mission structure, boss fights, a fourth difficulty level, or any combination thereof.
SciFly: Dogfight is a good-looking game in some ways, but very plain in others. The action around your jet is very fluid and exciting, but the lack of a radar or other helpful designators makes it feel like you’re flying a WWI-era biplane instead of a high-tech craft. We’d like to see arrows pointing out where your enemies are when they’re off-screen, as well as warnings when you’re being tailed. The action is also punctuated by crisp blaster shots and explosions that heighten the excitement factor.
In summary, SciFly: Dogfight is a thrilling game in search of more content. We think it’s worth $2.99 as-is, because even repeating the same handful of dogfights over and over again is enjoyable, but the game cries out for additional ships, new arenas, new game types; adding WiFi multiplayer certainly wouldn’t go amiss, either.