Game Title: Sky Gamblers Afterburner
Company: Atypical Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Digital Download
Battery Life: 3 – 4 hours
Cloud Save Support: Yes
Download: 2.4 GB

In the wake of Ace Combat 7 releasing on PS4 and Xbox One, handheld fans might be looking for aerial combat games of their own. Sadly, Ace Combat handheld games have stopped ever since the PSP games and 3DS remake of AC2. Outside of those, we have to look for smaller franchises that grace handhelds, most of which are much smaller both in scale and plane variety.

Sky Gamblers was one of those smaller games. Originally on Mobile, it brought Stormraiders over to the Switch with World War II aerial combat. Not satisfied with just ports of mobile games, the devs decided to make their own Switch-exclusive Sky Gamblers game, created from the ground up for the hybrid console.

Combining modern planes and weapons, here is my review of Sky Gamblers: Afterburner for the Nintendo Switch!

Story

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The plot of Afterburner puts you in the shoes of Dice, part of a special force of pilots known as the Sky Gamblers. When a naval exercise turns into a drone terrorist attack, the Sky Gamblers are sent after the organization to discover who they are and take them down.

The story of this game tries pretty hard to involve you in a plot filled with character development and even a hidden little love story between the Protagonist and one of his fellow pilots. This does make the game a bit different from many other smaller air combat games, but some of these segments feel really out of place with big, emotional scenes happening for characters you feel like you barely even know.

Gameplay

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Afterburner is a 3D air combat game. Like many other games of the genre, you will be flying through 3D areas, fighting off enemy units both in the air and on ground/water.

When it comes to game modes, you’ve got a bunch of different things you can do. With Single Player, you can play through the Story Campaign and make Custom Games against the AI in 8 different game modes, from intense Free-For-Alls and Capture-the-Flag or more casual Free Roam games that let you just enjoy and explore the scenery.

You’ve also got Multiplayer options to play with opponents from around the globe in most of the same game types you can make for Custom Single Player matches. You can go into Quick Battles or make custom rooms for people to join in or join others’ rooms.

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Outside of this, you’ve got the option to buy new planes with in-game currency and a pretty in-depth Customization Mode, allowing you to upgrade and customize not only the stats and weapons of your plane, but also the looks and vinyl wraps. You can’t do super-heavy customization with shaping everything, but there are a lot of emblems and paint styles you can equip to each plane.

The biggest mode here is the Story Campaign, which contains 15 missions across several real-world locations, like RIo and San Francisco. Each mission is designed around a different plane and different objective, making each one feel unique and different from the others.

The only problem here is that it’s not very long. I cleared all 15 missions in around 2 1/2 hours and there wasn’t much else to do outside of grinding matches to buy all of the different planes. The campaign was a lot of fun, but it was really short.

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The actual gameplay I found to be fun and very intuitive for this sort of game. You have normal controls where you can speed up, slow down, move in practically all directions, switch weapons, and fire off both your machine gun and special weapons/missiles.

But it also has some features that I don’t often see in this sort of flight game. The D-Pad is used for cinematic aerial evasion moves, like slideing to the left and right and doing a U-turn, Star Fox-style. Although more for looks than anything else, it also has an Eject feature when your plan is at critical damage, which I haven’t seen many games do. While this is more for looks, it’s still a very interesting little detail they threw in here.

Combat, itself, is very fluid. You get targets automatically and your Team’s AI is very smart with firing on the same targets you are, easily letting you conserve ammo for your missiles with your team around, assuming you’ve got their AI set to attack with you. It’s great to see not only fluid combat but smart AI to help you instead of them just flying around for the sake of it.

Overall, this comes together as a very fun game, but as I said earlier, the Story Campaign will barely last you 2.5 hours from start to finish. You can get more by grinding for more planes, but it feels like it’s over by the time you start, which is a shame as the campaign is a ton of fun while it lasts.

Controls

Controlling the game isn’t too confusing, though the Motion Control option in the settings is a bit odd. Motion Controls in the menu is labeled as Accelerometer. This is due to the game only using the built-in Accelerometer in the controllers and not the gyro functions, but it does lead to a bit of confusion if you don’t know what that function is. In my opinion, it should’ve been labeled as Motion Controls, as opposed to Accelerometer.

The actual controls aren’t too bad. You accelerate and decelerate with the Left Analog Stick and can move the plane’s direction and aim with the Left Analog Stick. The trigger buttons are used for firing off your weapons and launching flares. Then the face buttons. A is used for cycling special weapons and B for ejecting from your plane. X is used for issuing commands to your AI companions and Y is used for changing your camera view.

All in all, not too bad to adjust to.

Presentation

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Graphically, the game looks pretty good. The planes have a lot of detail but more importantly, the environments have a massive amount more detail than Stormraiders had on the Switch, all the way down to the iconic statue in Rio. I spent a long time in Free Roam just looking and admiring all of the buildings and landmarks they built into the environments.

Music, however, is my big problem here.  You get loads of cool music during the Main Menu, but a lot of the missions are dead silent, even when you’re in important segments.  It really makes those missions feel strange to have tension or just gameplay in general completely void of background music.

Performance-wise, it’s mostly good. The load times are pretty long which causes a good bit of frustration, but frame-rate stays pretty steady throughout.

Battery Life

Overall, Battery here is very similar to that of Storm Raiders. Afterburner has a Battery Range of:

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 03 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 11 minutes

Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 25 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 34 minutes

This is pretty decent. More than enough to clear the campaign with ease.

In conclusion, Sky Gamblers: Afterburner is one of the first games to introduce modern planes to the Nintendo Switch, and is an interesting addition to its list of exclusive fliers. On the downside, however, the campaign is very short and it suffers from some long load times and strange setting choices. It’s a very fun game, but one best bought on a sale for how much you’re actually getting.

Final Score: 7/10