Altitude: 2D Multiplayer Fun
Altitude (published by Nimbly games, available on Steam for PC and Mac; Linux version available from the game's site) stands out among Steam's flying games. It's 2D, but not a top-down view, as you might expect in an aerial combat game. It's sidescrolling. Sidescrolling, 2D, flying, online multiplayer arena combat. And it gets even better with the game modes.
There's the usual free-for-all and team deathmatches, but there's also a couple of unique games: air ball and team base destruction. What is air ball? It's basically soccer/football played with airplanes. You take the air ball and run it to the opposing team's goal. Team base destruction is quite similar, except the goal is to grab a nuclear weapon and drop it on the enemy's base. The team that does the most destruction wins. These modes are quite unique for an aerial combat game, and a lot of fun. There are also some "one life" options, including deathmatch and team base destruction. There's also one-life demolition, where infiltrators must plant a bomb in one of the defenders' two bases. Each game mode includes special item pick-ups on the map, such as missiles, shields, electrical forcefields, and health. There are five plane types to choose from, each with unique weapons, and a variety of maps, from a soccer pitch to a space one.
Is it still aerial combat if you're in space?
Some other uncommon features in Altitude include a map editor (and there is an ongoing map creation contest in the forums on Altitude's website), a Facebook application, and a colorblind mode -- something that many games lack, surprisingly. However, after comparing the colorblind mode to regular gameplay, I'm not sure that I can see significant changes. Colorblind mode still features key game elements in both red and green, which defeats the purpose of making things easier for players that cannot distinguish between these colors. Some players have complained that the game is only available in 4:3. There is an option to stretch the screen to other sizes, but this is not true widescreen. Only being available in standard screen size means that players using widescreen monitors will not gain an advantage over players using 4:3 by having a wider field of view, but it also means that the game cannot be enjoyed in true widescreen. This is a design choice that makes the game more fair, but it may be irritating to those that are intent upon making full use of their widescreen monitors.
Altitude is well polished, with excellent 2D graphics. The sound effects and music are minimal, so there is no danger of it becoming grating and repetitive. And really, if you don't have enough tracks of music to have a fresh variety for each map, it's probably better to restrict the music to the main menu and leave it off the levels entirely, as Altitude does. Additionally, the game sounds do not overwhelm the voice chat that is available in multiplayer games. Because Altitude is a 2D sidescroller, it's easy on your CPU usage, so good for less powerful PCs (aka Macs -- just kidding), and the controls are simple and straightforward. It's definitely not a complex flight simulator. With it's cartoonish appearance, retro level design and low-key combat that minimizes violence, this is a game that's great for all ages (and levels of squeamishness). There's a neat option to control the plane's trajectory and speed solely with the mouse. If you also map the primary, secondary, and special weapons to the mouse, you can essentially play only with the mouse, if you so desire. I found it quite easy to just plug in the Xbox 360 controller to the PC and play. If you want a simple and quick multiplayer flying game, then give Altitude a try. Our rating: a stadium full of rioting airball fans.