There are some combinations in life that you'd think wouldn't work together, but do: ham and pineapple on pizzas, girlfriends wearing your work shirts, Sven and the England team, monkeys playing tennis, and so on.
Now, imagine a universe that combines First World War-era planes, blimps and waxed moustaches with naughty pirates hell-bent on ruining everyone's day. Got it? Well, that's exactly what you get with Cloud Commander 3D. The game's universe is certainly unusual and, combined with some pretty impressive 3D visuals, draws you into a world where you'll be uttering "tally-ho" and "chocks away!" before you know what's happened.
Divvied up into a series of mission-based levels, Cloud Commander 3D alternates between dog-fights viewed from your plane's cockpit and top-down, vertically scrolling, 'shoot-em-up' stages.
The top-down levels are the most successful: the scenery passes underneath your little plane as you shoot down barrage balloons and bomb targets on the ground. You can accelerate to crazy speeds, but in doing so take the risk of crashing into a twisting canyon wall, which gives you a nice incentive to push it that little bit harder and master control of your airborne steed.
The dogfight levels, on the other hand, aren't so good. The main problem comes from limitations in the game's 3D engine (that is, the whizz-bangery that creates the visuals on screen and decides where everything is in space). You get the feeling the developers had high hopes for Cloud Commander 3D but were brought down to earth when they realised that today's phones couldn't quite cope with what they wanted to achieve.
The scenery doesn't move around your plane when you're dog-fighting in the cockpit view, giving the appearance that you're completely stationary. The enemy planes, blimps and other contraptions flit about you, chipping away at your health bar, while you spin around desperately trying to gun them down. On top of that, there are only a finite number of objects that the game can display at once. Translated into the dogfight environment, this means that your guns appear to stop firing for no reason! They still are, in actuality, it's just that the blimp that you're targeting has opened fire on you, and the increase in projectiles has swamped the display capability.
If that wasn't enough to ground your enthusiasm, you'll need small hands and your phone to have big buttons. A mobile's keypad sometimes just isn't suitable for action games and this is a prime example. Trying to pull off acrobatic rolls, chase a weaving enemy, and bring your guns to bear via a tiny set of controls is almost painful. It wouldn't be such an issue if you could change the buttons to suit your personal preferences, but this is a noteworthy omission, along with some way to turn the music down a bit – it's strident, to say the least!
Overall, Cloud Commander 3D is a disappointment. Given the quality and depth of the game's universe and concept, it could have been amazing. When it works, as it does in the top-down viewed levels, it's equal to any other shooter out there. But that still only leaves half a game; the in-cockpit sections really drag Cloud Commander 3D down like a lead weight and are enough to put an end to your desire to play through to reach the next level.
Maybe a sequel will achieve a happy marriage of technology and gameplay to match that between the wonderful men and their flying machines. Until then, toodle-pip old bean!