When it comes to video games and other forms of media like movies and books, I love it when stories tell different take on historical events and tales. That’s mainly why I’m a big fan of the Assassin’s Creed series, really dig the Wolfenstein games, and in general enjoy any history-themed or influenced game. Aces of the Luftwaffe – Squadron is exactly that, a SHMUP where the Second World War did not end how it did in reality, New York is getting bombed by the Axis forces in 1946, and it’s up to a small squadron of four air pilots to save the day. So, now that the game is out on all major platforms, I decided to try out the first version which is the Nintendo Switch one.
So to counter the annihilation of the American people by the Germans, the United States used a group of four pilots who are the epitome of every American cheesy heroic movie. You got Mark Taylor, Melissa Monroe, Steve Davis, (for a hint of equality being one female and one African-American character) and finally John King, which you control all at the same time as a… Well, you guessed it, a squadron. Controls as a single player are like any SHMUP, where you shoot with one button, strafe in all directions to avoid opposing fire, but you’ll also have to manage each of these pilot’s rather particular behaviours. Indeed, Steve will have the tendency to fall asleep randomly, forcing the group to protect him, while Mark gets chronic sickness which will push you to slow down your movements. Finally Melissa gets airsick and leaves the group for a while, and finally, John goes mental and starts shooting everything including you. These small handicaps that can occur during the game add a hint of spice to a game that does not lack any flavour.
Aces of the Luftwaffe – Squadron is mainly a singleplayer game – although you can play coop to up to four people each controlling a character – with 25 missions/levels in total, split into five chapters ending with its respective boss battle. At the beginning of each mission, a small in-game cinematic allows the players to understand this silly storyline, which is even more absurd with the help of cheesy dialogues between all four characters and their general… And by cheesy, I mean cringe-worthy cheddar ladled on a mountain of clichés. Then again, who cares about the story in a SHMUP, what matters is the gameplay and content in general.
And so, during each mission, in addition to the total and methodical annihilation of the Nazi Luftwaffe, there are different secondary objectives, which are pretty varied, ranging from dealing with your squadron’s weird “sicknesses”, rescue ground troops, obliterate key targets and much more. The latter objectives when successfully done will award you with medals which act as upgrade points for each character’s skill tree. The latter adds a small hint of RPG into the game, especially since you can reset every character tree whenever you like, depending on the mission so you can be either more focus on bigger health or attack power.
When it comes to the technical and graphical aspect of the game, Aces of the Luftwaffe – Squadron is solid in its own way. There’s no bugs, framerate drops or any sort of lag input, but it’s not that technical of a game to start with. The visual aspect of the game is done in a comic-style design, that reminds me a bit of Mercenary Kings from Tribute Games, full of colours and with decent readability.
Finally, the game is a rather good challenge in its own way and would recommend going straight to the harder difficulties for SHMUP veterans. Towards the end of the game, you’re probably going to have to grind to get as many perks unlocked as possible, especially to beat the later bosses (the Aces themselves), which sadly lack a bit the “giant” factor that you usually find in other SHMUP. I do feel like the content is rather short, and you’ll eventually finish the main part of the game in around 4 hours if you’re playing on hard.
Aces of the Luftwaffe – Squadron was reviewed using a Nintendo Switch digital download code of the game provided by THQ Nordic. The game is also available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC via digital store releases. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published (click here for more information about our review policy).
• A solid SHMUP gameplay
• RPG side with numerous skill trees
• A fun co-op multiplayer mode
• That storyline
• Rather long loading times
• No online multiplayer feels like a missed opportunity
• Short lifespan in general