Aces Of The Luftwaffe – Squadron is a SHMUP (Shoot ’em up) game from developer HandyGames and published by THQ Nordic. A sequel to the side scrolling shooter, Aces Of The Luftwaffe, released a few years ago, Aces Of The Luftwaffe – Squadron brings better graphics and is a much larger game by comparison. This time around gameplay is still from an overhead view, but players progress upwards instead of to the side, and I honestly prefer this. Released for the Nintendo Switch last year, it is now available for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles.
Set in 1946, players take control of a group of pilots and their various airplanes who are tasked with stopping the last vestiges of a secret Nazi organization called, The Aces of the Luftwaffe. With the war in Europe over, these nasty pricks decided to attack the good ol’ US of A. With crazy sci-fi technology, these Nazi invade with flying saucer-like war machines and all kinds of screen filling bosses for our four heroes to confront. Grab three friends and get your thumbs ready for a multiplayer experience like none other.
While Aces Of The Luftwaffe – Squadron can be played solo, with all four planes being controlled at once in a formation, friends can join in and take control of one each. While I have not had a chance to play with more than two players, I can say it does make for a great couch-mode co-op experience and overall increases the enjoyment level of the game. Not to say solo isn’t fun. It is a blast. You will just get more out of it with friends.
Graphically Aces Of The Luftwaffe – Squadron looks like an arcade shooter from the 90’s. That’s a good thing. The art style is cartoony and brings a bit of levity to the rather dark subject matter. Bosses are well designed and fill the screen with crazy attacks. Audio is unfortunately not so great, the music left much to be desired and did nothing to help with the intensity of certain sections of the game. On top of this, being developed by ironically enough, a German company, voice work for the characters is full of a slight accent. This is explained a bit in the story line, that this is a group of allies, including one German who escaped the Nazi party. It isnt bad, but its a little confusing at first. The cheesy dialog doesn’t help.
That brings me to the story in Aces Of The Luftwaffe – Squadron. While the premise is intriguing and well fleshed out, the story dialog itself is full of odd jokes and forced conversations to make some gameplay elements work. These can be skipped thankfully, but they take away from what could of been a more serious endeavour, it all sort of takes away from the “cool factor” of the game. Gameplay is the star here. With the usual power ups randomly dropping from killed enemies, tons of projectiles to avoid, and big bosses, Aces Of The Luftwaffe – Squadron has the staple elements of any good SHMUP. There are some interesting gameplay mechanics as well. Each of the different pilots seems to have some backstory to explain them too. Honestly though, I found them just annoying. One pilot, occasionally gets sick, and this makes the player move slowly or take damage. Another is afraid of heights, and will disappear at times. My least favorite is the guy who keeps falling asleep and you must protect him. While an interesting idea and mechanic, it just takes the fun out of it for me. I did enjoy the stealth aspect, trying to avoid being spotted by search lights and other aircraft was rough, but a change of pace.
There is a ton to do in Aces Of The Luftwaffe – Squadron. It includes a robust skill tree for each pilot and this allows for some great customization to your playstyle. Things like new abilities, upgraded damage, and reduced cooldowns. This promotes replaying levels and trust me, you will need to. Going back to collect medals (exp), complete side objectives, and find hidden upgrade tokens will be the necessary to upgrade and have the power to defeat later bosses. The main selling point again though, is playing when friends come over. This alone makes Aces Of The Luftwaffe – Squadron worth the $14.99 MSRP.
Overall, Aces Of The Luftwaffe – Squadron isn’t the best SHUMP I have ever played, or even played this year. But that said, it’s a good time alone and even better with friends. It’s well priced, colorful, and has a very interesting concept/story for a shooter. Fans of the genre will not be disappointed and if you have three friends to join, definitely pick it up.