A reader offers a preview of PS4 indie game Rogue Aces, and speaks to its developer about their disdain for unnecessary storytelling.
It’s was with a sense of trepidation that I picked up the PlayStation 4 controller from Mike Daw of Infinite State Games. We had just spent a very enjoyable 30 minutes at Mike’s home in Bristol, chewing the fat about the current state of the game industry with Mike’s enthusiasm for creating games that harken back to the arcades of the ‘80s a breath of fresh air.
The ethos of cutting out the unnecessary storytelling and unwanted filler that plagues AAA games, and returning to arcade-driven roots, resonates with my cynical 40-year-old self. He is clearly enjoying the creative freedom being an indie developer brings with it, and I’m keen to see if this is evident in their latest game Rogue Aces. Today I’m part journalist and part user tester, it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement.
The game I have come to preview is Rogue Aces; a roguelike scrolling shoot ‘em-up much like Sky Kid. it looks like Luftrausers, but looks can be deceiving. Rouge Aces is its own unique spin on the wraparound shooter. After explaining that the physics engine was based on one from NASA I started feeling a little apprehensive about how I would take to the game. I’m terrible at shooters.
My first impressions are positive, I’m playing Sky Kid, but crossed with the cartoon aesthetic and humour of Cannon Fodder. The game is beautiful, with an art deco forties-inspired font, clear text and a very British script with some excellent voice acting. Using a custom-built engine gives it personality and separates it from the many Unreal or Unity games filling our online stores.
I explore the horizontal field, awkwardly scraping along the ground and the sea, narrowly avoiding the terrain and the enemy army bases, and then push the throttle using the right stick and soar upwards. The screen keeps on scrolling and I realise the playfield is much bigger than I first expected. The clouds harken back to Shadow Of The Beast and the sound effects are at once punchy and playful. It’s a 2D sandbox built for dogfights and showboating, and after the exhilaration of take-off I start to think I’m a natural at it.
Then I crash. Then I crash again. I start to question my gaming prowess. I do not however stop pressing X to restart, there was something deliciously moreish about mastering the flight mechanics. At once simple, yet with enough complexity to feel like the effort it takes to learn the basics – like landing, bombing, and dogfighting – feel worthwhile. I initially struggle with the controls and Mike switches to an alternative control system, and it all suddenly clicks into place. I land the plane after a bombing run and dogfight like a pro while Mike makes mental notes.
At one point Mike explained the eject mechanic, which involves leaping out of your plane and dropping onto enemy planes. It feels awesome to achieve, I allude to hijacking a vehicle in Halo and Mike smiles and nods in recognition. In fact, this feels so good they created a game mode (one of many) called Hot Potato which focusses on this mechanic alone. When I successfully ejected and stole a plane the both of us gave a little whoop in delight. It was at this point I knew Rogue Aces was a little bit special.
Mike had earlier explained the principles underpinning Rogue Aces, stating that this is first and foremost an arcade shooter focusing on the player having fun. No convoluted story, just good old-fashioned gameplay taking centre stage. ‘It is a feeling… arcade is the amount of fun per minute’.
As I play I compare the gameplay loop to Pac-Man, in that you grasp the gameplay in the first minute of playing and then the longer you survive the more the intensity ramps up. Boss battles, Trophies, Achievements, and leaderboards will all feature in the finished product, to bring it up to modern day expectations. Mike also advises that the game has lots of little hidden touches for gamers to discover, and I had heard rumours of UFOs featuring in the game.
In my short playthrough I started with the tutorials to get a handle on the controls, and then had a crack at the first few campaign missions and the Hot Potato game mode. As a rougelike each playthrough is unique, with experience earnt carried over with perks available such as faster turning speed. What was really interesting was the emergent battles taking place between rival armies, the longer I survived the more the level was showing the scars of war.
My only disappointment was the lack of a planned Switch release. One can only hope that may change if the game generates enough interest. It certainly deserves to find an audience upon release, and I’d happily double dip for the opportunity to play it on Nintendo’s hybrid.
I thank Mike for his time, and leave feeling an odd sense of renewed enthusiasm for the industry. While developers like Infinite State Games continue to place fun front and centre in game design, I will continue to pick up a joypad and play. Tally Ho!
By reader Bristolpete
The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.
You can submit your own 500 to 600-word reader feature at any time, which if used will be published in the next appropriate weekend slot. As always, email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow us on Twitter.