App Review: Above & Beyond Air Combat by Licentia Software
Above & Beyond Air Combat is an iPhone game that took me by surprise. This being the first promo code sent to me to review for App Chatter, I wasn’t expecting to see a game as polished and in-depth as this right off the bat.
At first glance, the game looks like an on-rails 3D space shooter like Star Fox 64, but in reality the bulk of Above & Beyond Air Combat lies in a massive open world where boundaries are almost nonexistent and your next objective is whatever you choose it to be. I’m talking of course about “Conquest Mode”, which features 60 islands to conquer through the barrel of your aircraft’s gun or guns, depending on which aircraft you’re using and/or how you choose to customize it.
The true replay value and depth of Above & Beyond Air Combat lies in customizing the 12 different aircraft. When you conquer an island in Conquest Mode by defeating all of the fighter planes, turrets, or battle ships inhabiting it, you are rewarded with both money and energy. Energy is used to unlock new purchasable weapons, shield upgrades, boost abilities, and entire aircraft. There’s always some new way to tinker with your ships, whether that is to buy new parts or change the colors for your existing ones, or start altering a newly unlocked craft to fit your liking. The game is paced well, so it’s never very long before you have a new plane to play around with.
The aiming reticule of each plane is controlled through the accelerometer, and in my time playing the game I have never had any serious problems getting the tilt controls to match my preference. The default settings work great, but if for example you don’t want your vertical axis inverted, or you want the sensitivity a little higher, the robust options menu can provide a solution. To shoot your weapons, all you have to do is push the fire button in the top right-hand corner of the screen. It’s small enough to keep the screen uncluttered, but responsive enough to work every time you want it to.
Conquest Mode and the aircraft customization that goes along with it already provides hours of play time, but there are actually two other modes to add to the overall package. These modes, Survival and Gauntlet, work as “pick up and play” type challenges better than Conquest. Survival throws wave after wave of increasingly tougher groups of enemies at you, and with no health regeneration until the round is over, things get tough (and fun) rather quickly. Gauntlet mode is all about flying through rings and shooting down targets in a set amount of time. Both of these alternate modes are fun on their own, albeit not as deep as Conquest.
As large as the game is however, it is not without its faults. The foremost problem I have is with stuttering graphics and pop-up. The menus are not always completely fast or smooth, especially when you enable the OpenFeint support. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that there’s OpenFeint support (giving the game leaderboards and achievements), but it can sometimes slow the menu navigation down to an annoying crawl. When you leave the menus and get the game started, the graphics are of a high resolution, but not always processed fast enough. In other words, it’s common once you get farther into the game and start traveling to more complex islands to see them suddenly appear before your eyes and slow the frame rate down in the process. More importantly (and more unfortunately), Conquest mode can begin to feel repetitive after a while, as the core concept of traveling to an island, taking down a few enemies, and then repeating that same process over and over grows old. I find myself playing the game in short bursts to prevent the gameplay from feeling stale.
Still, Above & Beyond Air Combat has a huge amount of cool content to experience that’s sure to please any fan of iPhone flight games. It has a few faults, but I definitely recommend Above & Beyond Air Combat for its depth and replay value.
What we liked: The aircraft customization will keep players interested for hours. The Conquest mode is very lengthy, and the other two modes are fun in their own ways. Customizable controls. Ability to use iPod music. OpenFeint support.
What we didn’t like: Graphics stutter and islands fall victim to pop-up issues as the game progresses. The gameplay becomes a little redundant as time goes on.
[Editor's Note: Josh is new here at AppChatter.com and judging from this excellent review writeup, we'll be looking forward to hearing more from him.]