If Air War ($1.00) and its block-styled confines look familiar to you, you’re not alone / crazy1. A lot of its designs and assets owe their origin to Block King, developer Chris Antoni’s previous… um… block-styled confines. Much the same as in that game, Air War is an online shooter for up to eight players2, best enjoyed with friends and an unhealthy amount of trash talk.
And by shooter, I mean ship-based dogfighting in the first-person sense, with aerial battles taking place in three different arenas. Despite the visual similarities, each stage does an adequate job of varying the architecture, leading you through narrow gaps and around other obstacles, avoiding fire (and walls!) and trying to get the drop on your opponents.
The perspective can be a little jarring at first, yet the controls and the flying itself is pretty straightforward. The game allows you to tweak your ship and play style mid-flight, adding or subtracting points to laser power, shield strength, and speed. Your starting craft is similar to Star Wars‘ TIE fighters, but you can spend your banked points from kills on bigger, stronger ships that will last the duration of your next life. This applies a welcome layer of strategy and ‘risk vs. reward’ to the fighting, as you can morph from a lumbering fortress to a nimble jet in just a few seconds, adjusting to match the situation.
While Air War is doubtlessly intended as a multiplayer game, there is a single-player option that pits you against AI drones (with both air and ground targets). This functions more like a so-so ‘waiting room’ than a standalone mode. In a novel workaround to XBLIG’s notoriously-vacant online community, the game can change from that single-player mode to multiplayer on the fly, courtesy of a drop-in, drop-out option that will let players ‘invade’ your game.
That multiplayer isn’t perfect, though. There’s some noticeable lag between the on-screen action and what’s actually happening, as well an issue that prevents you from having more than four players in a lobby3. There’s also the aforementioned lack of an online community to consider, as the single-player offering here doesn’t provide much of a reason to play, beyond being a distraction as you wait for friends / randoms to join.
Ultimately, Air War isn’t as fast and fun as Block King, nor does it offer much depth or replayability. At times, it can feel like an add-on or an elaborate test of working parts that might eventually comprise a bigger game. However, if you’re in the mood for some basic-looking air-to-air combat— and have friends willing to play with you— Air War fills a niche.
- I mean, you still might be. I have no way of knowing, and I’m not exactly a good judge of sanity anyway. ↩
- Although consider yourself forewarned; in my time with the game, Air War would never allow more than four players in one match. Oh, and much thanks to ‘ImTheMetalLord’, ‘andregurov’, and Chris Antoni for their help in testing the game’s multiplayer. ↩
- See #2 above. ↩