PS4, PS Vita, Switch •
Biggles Defends The Arcade – by Captain W.E. Johns and Infinite State Games.
Rogue Aces is a tidy little side-scroller shmup where you thrum your prop plane at the enemy, coursing through the ack-ack to put the hurt on aircraft, boats and ground materiel. In keeping with Infinite States’ prior titles, this is undeniably arcade fare.
There are a number of modes to unlock, with the two earliest being Campaign and Survival. The former has players operate from the base aircraft carrier, running sorties against all manner of targets in the air, land and sea. New missions cycle when you’ve achieved your goals and return to rearm and repair. Though campaign missions revolve largely around gunning, rocketing and bombing things into oblivion, there’s a light territory capture element with airfields to capture across the map. This keeps your fighter closer to the fight.
Unlike the campaign, with its three life limit, Survival mode is a combo-centric romp against a constant stream of enemy fighters. One life, make it count. Survival is very much my jam, tickling the Hotline Miami compulsion organ with its instant restart.
Another mode, the delicious combination of the aforementioned two, is an island-hopper conquest affair. Frontline has you flying from nodal island to nodal island, each with its own infrastructure to bomb flat or capture, in an effort to leapfrog across the archipelago towards the enemy base. It’s not a huge mechanical change-up from the rest of Rogue Aces, but the implementation is very cool.
Rogue Aces’ flight model is tight, but does take a little getting used to. On good authority, I was told to try out the Alternative Control Scheme, which splits throttle and stick between the dual analog sticks. This is very sound advice, and I’d encourage anyone to give it a go. There’s a lot more finesse to manoeuvring when you’ve got all that throttle fidelity. When dive-bombing or buzzing, or landing, this feels pitch-perfect. Because, like, pitch. You’ve been a great audience.
The only issue I have with Rogue Aces is its music. A matter of taste, but I found the game’s rock element somewhat incongruous to its Boys Own Annual motif. In a game with jets? Sure. Get your Loggins on. But Rogue Aces feels like it would have benefited from some electro-swing, or something a little less toothy. Otherwise, the effects and economic voice work are all very tally ho!
Like Infinite State’s prior games, their understanding of what makes a good arcade game tick is absolutely shining here. Simple premise, good twists, tight controls. It’s also a fantastic send-off for the Vita, which has lived in palliative care for the last few years.
Bright, responsive, effortlessly playable; Rogue Aces is Infinite State Games’ best yet and an arcade keeper, no matter where you play it. Smoke me a kipper!