Above and Beyond Air Combat Hands-On

We’ve been playing through a beta version of Josh Rosen’s sequel to SciFly, called Above and Beyond Air Combat. So far, the 3d graphics, unlockable incentives, and high degree of customization have snared us in its net.

As Josh explained to us in our first look preview, Above and Beyond is all about the fun of flying around, shooting things. The levels are tiny islands in the middle of an ocean, and each island is unlocked until you can conquer the one next to it. Some islands open up a few different paths for you, and the design, while simple and consistent, has some interesting variations.

For example, one island may have a small bay where an aircraft carrier is hidden. Another might be a high-rise plateau, with anti-air turrets scattered on top. However, we’ve only encountered three enemy types’” anti-air turrets, enemy jets, and aircraft carriers. Giant boss battles would also be a great thing to see, but they’re not going to be in this game.

Still, the steady progression of more difficult islands makes for some extremely addictive gameplay. Each island conquered gives you energy points that can be spent on new weapons, armor, or speed boosts. Since you unlock new planes as well, the combination of planes and accessories will let you customize your plane’s look and feel. We found ourselves right at home with a pair of green lasers and a centrally mounted machine gun.

Flying in Above and Beyond felt very natural, with responsive tilt controls and only a few on-screen buttons. Your plane also has a regenerating shield that will recharge if you stay out of the line of fire, so swooping in for an attack and jetting away quickly is a common strategy.

Beyond Conquest mode, you can also jump into a Survival mode, where you’re in the middle of the ocean in frantic dogfights against increasingly more aggressive enemy waves, and a time-trial speed run, lined with rings to fly through and targets to shoot. Your high score from these two modes can be shared online using Open Feint.

We’re impressed with Above and Beyond so far. The flying mechanics feel very polished, and while the level and enemy design are not overwhelmingly varied, this is still shaping up to be a solid shooter. It’s in beta now, but Above and Beyond Air Combat should be on the App Store within a few months.