Airstrife: Assault of the Aviators – Review
Follow Genre: Shoot-em-up, Bullet-Hell
Developer: Kensoft Game Studio
Publisher: Kensoft Game Studio
Platform: PC
Tested On: PC

Airstrife: Assault of the Aviators – Review

Site Score
8.0
Good: Good Art Design, Good Sound Design, Enjoyable Gameplay Loop
Bad: No Story. Steep Learning Curve To Combat
User Score
8.0
(1 votes)
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Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Airstrife: Assault of the Aviators can easily be compared to other titles in the shoot-em-up genre. While it may seem simplistic, the game is surprisingly difficult, but also offers small but enjoyable features to keep things fresh. With the option to play with up to four players, this short but sweet title is well worth the play.

Story

For the most part, Airstrife doesn’t have much of a story. The best way players will discover anything story-related, will be through the setting. The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting, where dominance is controlled by the aircraft patrolling the skies. Players take the role of a neutral faction, trying to stop the war on both ends.

While the story aspect is considerably lacking, the setting however is greatly detailed and is somewhat an acceptable substitute for adding some explanation to the otherwise non-existent plot.

Graphics

Airstrife takes much of its appearance from similar titles in the genre, using a somewhat unique pixelated art-style. Using hand-drawn pixel art, each of the available aircrafts players will use is widely distinct. The enemy designs are varied enough to keep players guessing, ranging from over 80 planes, each one having a distinct pattern of attacks; which will be explained in turn.

To add even more attention to detail, depending on where players take damage during fights, the corresponding part of the plane will show wear and tear. While this can just be considered an aesthetic factor, it also is an important part to the gameplay loop, which will also be explained later.

Also, the amount of work put into the backgrounds of the stages is immense. Ranging from war-torn villages, rural country-sides, islands, and the ocean there is always something to catch the player’s eyes. When enemies are shot down, instead of just vanishing into thin air from explosions, some aircraft plummet below with a satisfying effect that changes depending on the stage.

Sound

For sound design, mostly all players will hear are the sounds of bullets, missiles, and explosions, all in that order. The artillery, however, is somewhat distinct for each plane, with the audio cues loud enough to know where each attack is coming from, considering there’s so much happening on screen.  

Surprisingly, the music is no slouch either. Most titles in this genre suffer the constant trope of in-game music being muffled and drowned out by the sound effects. Needless to say, that doesn’t seem to be the case here. The game does a fantastic job of balancing the music and sound effects respectively, without each one overshadowing the other.

That being said, the music is fantastic and somewhat captures the feeling of being on the frontlines of war. As soon as the stage starts, players are greeted with violins that slowly transition to an ensemble of trumpets, escalating as time goes on. Aside from the track selection that is fairly limited, what’s available to players now is well worth the listen.

Gameplay 

Airstrife: Assault of the Aviators is at its core, a somewhat difficult bullet-hell shoot-em-up title, with light RPG elements. The main goal is to traverse through different stages while battling various other planes. Since this is still a bullet-hell title, the main focus is to deal as much damage as possible without getting hit yourself, as in most situations this can spell instant death.

 

At the start, players will be able to pick from four planes, each with their own stats and specific weapons. In addition to fully customizing planes with different weapons, more planes will be available over time, allowing players to mix and match a variety of planes for different playstyles. 

From the start, Airstrife makes it known that this game is not for the faint of heart. Even at the earlier levels, the amount of enemies on-screen is overwhelming, which is understandable. While players have the option to avoid enemies and focus primarily on dodging to make things easier, the game adds a certain mechanic to keep players from breezing through levels.

If a player misses an enemy and they go off-screen, the same enemy will loop back twice. This means players will have no other option than to take out as many enemies as possible, as letting them live can easily kill runs as you’ll find yourself overwhelmed by gunfire. As this adds more strategy to firefights, it can be a nuisance at certain points, especially during boss fights.

As stated earlier, the damage players take to their planes plays an important part in the core gameplay. There are three parts to the plane: Left, Right, and Mid. Depending on the part, once they are heavily damaged or destroyed, the players shooting and movement are greatly hindered. This means players will have to keep track of their health and weapons constantly, as otherwise, this can make certain stages nearly impossible to beat. However, the realism is a welcome addition to the somewhat arcade-like mechanics, adding some sort of authenticity to the gameplay. 

As for replayability, in addition to the base campaign, there’s a mode called Exploration Mode. The latter is basically a free play mode with a larger assortment of enemies. This mode is mainly used for grinding, as you can earn more rewards for defeating enemies, which in turn will allow you to save up more money for upgrades. Airstrife also allows local co-op with up to four players, making the game more enjoyable with friends. 

Conclusion

Airstrife: Assault of the Aviators is a welcome addition to the shoot-em-up genre. The amount of detail for its stages and planes is staggering; the story however is a little lackluster, to say the least. The gameplay is surprisingly difficult and may take some time to master but is still enjoyable, and with the addition of local co-op, the game has a lot to offer in terms of replayability.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)
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Airstrife: Assault of the Aviators - Review, 8.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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