Aces Are Not Wild
Rogue Aces by Curve Digital and Infinite State Games is a punishingly difficult arcade title geared toward earning a high score and completing mission objects in succession. It might take some inspiration from old school shooters like Defender but there are definitely enough unique gameplay elements to separate itself within the shooter genre.
Rogue Aces is a difficult game for a couple reasons. First are the controls. Using the left stick to move and the right to control speed, shooting enemy aircraft, bombing ground-based tanks, and snagging parachuting collectables is always a challenge. The controls are not pick-up-and-play and the opening tutorial doesn’t explain everything the game has to offer. It is strange because the player as the option to switch between a few different control options in the main menu but the player cannot see the button layout of each until the game has started. Even after spending time experimenting with the controls, maneuvering the plane is still a challenge. So much so that the game even provides an option to automatically land the plane on the aircraft carrier between missions instead of manually landing which almost always results in a suicide crash. In fact, landing back on base is so challenging that there is a Trophy for doing it and makes landing in the NES version of Top Gun look easy.
Rogue Aces has some light roguelike elements as different mission objectives appear each time a new game is started. Even though there are over 100 scenarios to play through, each one involves blowing up something, whether it is a tank battalion, a handful of enemy aircraft, or destroying some supply depots. Unfortunately, the player will fight the same enemies repeatedly and each mission is essentially the same. But like an endless runner, the goal is to string together a series of wins until the inevitable game over.
Even with the high speed arcade action of 2D dog fighting, there are some issues with Rogue Aces that hold back the experience. For example, the game teases the player by graying out some additional gameplay modes from the main menu. Unfortunately, the game never tells the player how or why these hidden modes should be unlocked. Why aren’t they just unlocked from the beginning? Also, there are some issues in the audio department. For some reason, the voice narration, although not really important, is never loud enough even after adjusting the audio levels from the menu. Plus, the game never teaches the player about the coolest aspects of the aerial warfare such as how missiles and bombs work, and how to save yourself from a burning aircraft by ejecting with a parachute. These are the coolest bullet points about this 2D shooter but the game leaves them hidden instead of marketing these entertaining features to the forefront. The player is also given the option to play as a male or female pilot but there is no difference, not even cosmetic, between the two; not sure why this was even included in the game.
Due to the high difficulty and non-user friendly control scheme, Rogue Aces isn’t for everyone. At the very least, Rogue Aces deserves credit for trying something new and putting some flavor in this $12.99 digital download, although it is an acquired taste.
Rogue Aces is also available on Nintendo Switch and PS Vita (cross-buy and cross-save is available with the PS4/Vita version).
Not As Good As: the plane battles in Atari 2600’s Combat
Also Try: Time Pilot or Barnstorming
Wait For It: Ikaruga 2