Plane War review: addictive shoot-em-up gameplay in a pretty package
C. Custer | On October 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm
Plane War (飞机大战), the latest iOS game from China-based developer Song Yang, is taking China by storm. And after taking the game, which is free, for a spin I can understand why. It’s great! The game is only available in Chinese as far as I can tell, but there’s very little language in it, so anyone will be able to pick up and play even if they don’t speak a word of Chinese. And iPad users will be pleased to see there’s a special HD version of the game for them. (It’s also worth noting that there’s a different Android game that uses this same name, so don’t get confused).
Plane War is actually an overhauled and updated version of an earlier game that was called Everyday Playing with Planes (天天打飞机, which not coincidentally could also be translated as ‘Masturbating Everyday’). The current version of the game was launched on Monday, and features a bunch of new power-ups, higher weapon leveling, and more upgrades.
Plane War is a fast-paced shoot-em-up game that wouldn’t be out of place in a classic arcade, except for the fact that it looks a lot less pixellated than the older games that inspired it. Gameplay is remarkably simple: you drag your finger left and right to move your ship left and right as it flies through space blasting away at enemy ships. When destroyed, these ships drop gold coins, gems, and power-ups. The former two can be used to buy upgrades (including extra power-ups) and the latter are used to do things like double your weapon spread for a limited time, or jump ahead a few hundred meters while auto-killing everything in your path.
At the very least, you will need to buy weapon upgrades; if you last beyond the first 30 seconds or so the level 1 weapons simply won’t get the job done against tougher opponents. But thankfully the game doles out enough coins and gems that upgrading your weapons every few games really isn’t a problem. If you want to, you can buy extra gold using real money via in-app purchases, but that really isn’t necessary. The game will give you all the gold you need for upgrades and power-ups if you play it long enough.
And you’ll want to keep playing the game, because it feels great. Although the main mechanic is simple, the various power-ups and the variety of enemies you’ll encounter (including some bosses, random meteors that come streaking at you, etc) are more than enough to keep things fresh for short play sessions, and that’s exactly what this game was designed for.
The only thing I didn’t like was that it asks you to review it on iTunes after every single game. That gets a bit old, but it’s a very minor annoyance in a game that plays remarkably well.
Gameplay, sound, and theme: exactly what you’d expect (and that’s a good thing)
It also helps that there’s some variety in the visuals and sound, too. Both the background music and the background images you see as you play vary from game to game. There aren’t a ton of different options, but there’s enough to keep it from feeling stale. The visuals are sharp and attractive, but the game is so intense that you won’t spend much time enjoying them as you’ll be too busy frantically blasting and dodging incoming ships. The fast-paced, synth-driven music also helps reinforce the intense atmosphere.
Plane War doesn’t have a story to speak of, but an arcade game like this really doesn’t need one, and it does have a very cohesive-feeling theme. Everything from the menus to the music to the gameplay itself screams fast-paced sci-fi action. In fact, the only aspect of the game that really doesn’t seem to fit is its title: Plane Wars. I’m guessing the choice of “plane” was a holdover from Everyday Playing with Planes, but since the use of “planes” there was only for the sake of making a masturbation joke anyway, it seems like Song Yang could have just rebranded here and given the game a name that better fits its atmosphere and theme. With that said, though, a less-than-perfect title is a very nitpicky complaint, and it won’t affect your experience with the game in the slightest.
Plane War gets the highest form of recommendation I ever give a mobile game: it’s going to stay on my iPhone so I can keep playing it. It’s a perfect time-waster, and just thinking about it makes me want to stop writing this review and play it again for a few more minutes. If you’re even remotely interested in space shooters or the shoot-em-up genre in general, you really owe it to yourself to check this game out.