Game Reviews

Angels in the Sky

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| Angels in the Sky
Angels in the Sky
| Angels in the Sky

There was a palpable sense of excitement in the darkened meeting room. A booming cinematic score rocked the eardrums, and at the centre of the space stood a sleek metal table, atop which a black cloth draped.

The sense of drama and showmanship was perhaps a little over the top for a meeting with a journo, but this was important - it was the first Unreal Engine 4 game for the iPhone 5s.

The lead developer pulled the cloth away with a flourish and a grin, revealing a gleaming device and the team's new creation, Angels In The Sky.

The invited journo had heard chattering online, whispers about harnessing the power of futuristic weapons, lighting up the sky with heart-pounding dogfights, and devastating enemies with cutting-edge technologies.

He was tingling with excitement, and gingerly held the device, waiting for the action to begin.

Head in the clouds

An oddly juddery intro movie played, showing the player's ship being hotly pursued by a fleet of alien craft. "Teething problems," thought the journo as he settled down for some of the heart-pounding dogfights he'd been promised.

The ship zoomed along the Grand Canyon, the 3D view showing aliens bobbing and weaving close behind, a HUD providing details regarding the readiness of the ship's weapons.

This sheer level of graphical detail had not been seen since… well, quite a few other iPhone games as it happens. But still the journo wasn't swayed. After all, this was an Unreal Engine 4 game! It had to be amazing! Heart-pounding dogfights! Futuristic weapons!

He played on and the team stared with anticipation, confident the journo would proclaim Angels In The Sky the new king of iOS games - possibly even the best game in existence.

In their minds countless awards amassed, securing their title a place in gaming history, smashing away trifling wannabes like Mario, Zelda, Tetris, and GTA.

Shoot me now

A dozen games later, the journo's eyes finally lifted from the glowing screen. They were red and empty. "What did you think?" asked the lead developer. "Well…," said the journo, pausing ever so slightly too long. "I do have one or two tiny worries."

The journo noted how the entire game was on rails, but also had auto-targeting, leaving you with almost nothing to do but stab the bottom-left fire-button until your thumb seized up.

He grumbled that cooldown times for additional weapons robbed the game of any sense of exhilaration, turning Angels In The Sky into an arduous slog.

He ranted about the ship designs and the graphics in general, calling them "uninspiring and bland," causing the lead artist, lower lip wobbling, to flee from the room.

He complained that the game essentially becomes impossible around level five unless you hugely upgrade your ship. But your income is so paltry that you'll end up spending all your cash repairing your battered vehicle. Without fixing it up, you've not got a chance of surviving the next round.

In-app punishing

The lead developer helpfully noted you could just "play earlier levels several dozen times, to get enough money to upgrade" or "buy funds using IAP".

The journo growled that the game "costs £4.99/$6.99 in the first place, and even the same again in IAP buys you hardly anything."

Feeling the momentum was truly with him now, the journo continued. To the increasingly crestfallen developers, he pontificated about the game's sloppy Universal nature, respectively cutting off and stretching UI and still screens on the iPad.

He slammed the lazy design and gameplay that, when it boils down to it, has less flexibility and strategy than Taito's original 1978 Space Invaders, which also happens to be a lot more fun.

Halfway through a tirade about how "Angels in the Sky should be labelled one of the worst games on the iPhone, but it’s probably a stretch to even call it a game," the lead developer pressed a hitherto unseen button and catapulted the journo out of the window. Below waited a moat of ravenous crocodiles that tore the shrieking critic limb from limb.

A wide-eyed intern asked if that had been wise. What if the press found out? Not about the journo being devoured, but about the game’s failings.

"Oh, it's OK," said the lead developer, reassuringly. "We have the power of Unreal Engine 4 and shiny App Store screenshots behind our game, so I’m certain that nothing can go wrong. Plus hardly anyone takes any notice of those guys anyway."

Angels in the Sky

A truly wretched experience that lacks any semblance of gameplay, and can't even shore itself up with graphics that look anything other than ordinary. Awful