Review: Rocking Pocket Games Blue Skies Air Force Academy
Rocking Pocket Games may just have found the single best-suited vehicle for the accelerometer built into the iPhone and iPod touch: a helicopter. In Blue Skies Air Force Academy ($10), you have an overhead view of a helicopter that's loaded with air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons, flying over jungles, mountains, and lakes filled with enemies. During 30 levels, you need to shoot down planes, helicopters, and zeppelins, while bombing mines and tanks.
The good news: the accelerometer controls, assuming that you’re willing to position yourself on the correct angle to use them, work extremely well. Rotating the copter, flying it backwards or forwards, and landing are extremely straightforward and actually sort of fun. Firing air-based weapons such as missiles requires a press on one side of the screen, bombs a press on the other, and neither distracts you from the targets you’re trying to hit in front of your chopper. There’s legitimately good background music and a cash reward system to let you buy better weapons. You also have the ability to return to your landing pad at any time to heal and refuel your chopper.
On the flip side are Blue Skies’ graphics, repetitive gameplay, and small bugs. Though the top-down view works, neither the vehicles nor the backgrounds is especially well-drawn by the standards of $10 iPhone OS titles, using simple 2-D sprite and tiled art that could really be a lot better on this platform. During gameplay, Blue Skies feels like it’s somewhat behind the mark of early rotating 2-D titles such as Namco’s Assault and Nintendo’s Pilotwings from nearly 20 years ago; the game’s cut scenes use art and fonts that are also really mediocre. Similarly, from level to level, shooting at targets is fine, but not super-exciting based on relatively simple enemy movements, and there are times when the game’s “next enemy” arrow indictor points you off the map to find a new target. Finally, while we like the fact that there’s a calibration screen for the controls, it doesn’t work properly to let you go in reverse if you hold the device upright; more calibration options would have made this work properly.
If Blue Skies sold for half the price, it would be worthy of our general recommendation; however, at its current price of $10, it’s just too expensive given its quality. A 3-D version could be a major stunner and a winner, but as is, this is worthy of our limited recommendation to users with helicopter fetishes and a little extra cash to spend.