Aggressive Side-Scrolling Aerial Combat with Progression
It seems that the public-at-large cannot get over how freaking awesome old-fashioned dog fighting is. No, this indy title is not about Michael Vick’s underground criminal career, but classic World War I airplane-on-airplane action. Nimbly Games’s Altitude delivers classic aerial combat with an attractive two-dimensional style but problems with the leveling system hold it back from being a great game. A quick tutorial is present and skirmishes can be played against computer controlled bots, but the game shines in multiplayer. The action is frantic as planes turn quickly and it takes few hits to give your target a brief nap. In most game modes death has little sting as a downed player respawns after a brief period and the action is never far away.
A number of maps and game modes are available, and there is a well established and helpful community backing the game. Game modes vary from standard free-for-all and team death-match to the energetic plane ball which is similar to hockey or soccer with players attempting to get a ball into a goal. The majority of the official maps at this point are actually community created and integrated into the game at a later point. While it is certainly no Progress Quest, there is still a good deal of bar filling to be done by the player. Unabashedly borrowing the Call of Duty perks system gives a slight amount of customization for each player. The player’s ultimate goal is to achieve level 60 and access to all of the customization of the five different planes. Incentives are certainly present but the system-at-large suffers from two problems: overly powerful upgrades that punish newer players and a lack of depth.
Some of the perks and planes a player gets at higher levels give a bit too much of an advantage to those who have sunk more hours into the winding combat. At times this will lead to newer players feeling they do not have a chance against veterans not because of skill but because they do not have access to more powerful weapons or automatically repairing hull. Perhaps the larger issue is that there is not much customization afforded by the leveling system. There are a total of five planes, each with three or four weapon customization options and two categories of general perks, but all these options result in so few combinations that you will often see your mirror image raining death.
Speedy action is what Altitude has in droves, but a lack of depth and some balancing issues hold it back. It is certainly a worthwhile experience for a few hours, and some players will be enthralled by the mastery required to be great at the combat, but for others it will grow old and stale.