Custer’s Last Stand. The Alamo. Charge of the Light Brigade. Throughout history there have been many famous doomed military ventures, where the losing side continues to fight against insurmountable odds to secure an entirely unlikely victory.
You’re expected to do exactly the same in Air Attack, an action title for Android. As soon as the game begins you’re told in no uncertain terms that you will not walk away from this mission alive; instead you aim is merely to fight for as long as you can and take down as many enemy units with you as possible in the process.
The action in Air Attack takes place on a randomly-generated landscape, usually consisting of hills, trees and buildings. This entire environment is destructible, and during the course of the battle it will invariably become pockmarked with bomb craters.
Your character – a plucky solder with a death wish – parachutes into the level at the start of a game. He’s equipped with a standard-issue rocket launcher, which is initially capable of firing a single shot before reloading.
As the conflict drags on, you’ll be able to pick up enhancements such as multiple shots and armour-piercing ammo which is more effective at taking down stronger opponents.
Your enemies consist largely of airborne craft, including helicopters, bombers and jets. Often you’ll face other infantry units, who are parachuted into the arena of war just like yourself.
You’ll also have to contend with high-altitude bombers which can’t be seen (or attached) but drop deadly bombs. Hitting one of these with a rocket disarms the warhead, and if you pick it up you get a neat point bonus.
The controls in Air Attack are fairly straightforward; you tap where you’d like your rocket to go and your soldier duly fires. Moving him around the map is a little more problematic.
The default setup uses a gesture-based system, where you draw with you finger the direction you’d like your avatar to move in. You can also make him leap over obstacles using this method, or resort to the trackball or track pad, assuming your phone has one.
The problem is that this interface doesn’t really lend itself to the “move and fire” strategy required to really succeed in Air Attack. You can use the accelerometer to control movement if you wish, and this at least allows you to perform both actions with more fluidity, but it’s still not ideal.
All too often you’ll find your game unfairly ending because you couldn’t avoid an incoming missile or bomb.
There’s also a lack of a cohesive challenge in Air Attack -all you’re able to do is tackle randomly-created levels in a handful of difficulty settings. Granted, the ability to submit your best score to an online leaderboard does at least offer up a semblance of challenge, but it would have been nice to see some kind of campaign mode installed.
Air Attack is undeniably fun and offers punchy sound and distinctive visuals, but the awkward control system and lack of structure reduce its long-term appeal.