Procedural, low-poly goodness.
As soon as I booted up Sky Rogue, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia for an age of gaming long past. Something about it screams ‘90s arcade, and a strong Sega vibe is present in almost every aspect of its presentation. Sky Rogue combines these classic arcade influences with a procedurally generated, rogue-lite gameplay loop to create an experience that, while not too deep, feels endlessly replayable.
Sky Rogue is an arcadey 3D flight-sim. Upon starting the campaign, you’ll have a moment to load up your aircraft of choice for the mission ahead (randomly generated each time). At the start, the only options are a basic assortment of weapons, but each run, whether successful or otherwise accrues credits to put towards new weapons and planes. I appreciated that right from the start, a huge number of paint jobs are available to select for your craft. I chose one called Sky Fox, which was white with blue highlights and a red fox for a logo. Something about it felt right.
Weapons range from machine guns to guided and unguided missiles. Plenty of variants of each weapon type are available, each with unique stats. Each plane also has its own stats along with a set number of payload and avionics points. These points are used up by equipping weapons. Setting up your plane therefore becomes less about equipping all the most powerful weapons, and more about carefully making the most out of your available points.
Once you do take off, a procedurally generated island fills the screen, littered with various buildings and weapon emplacements. Enemy aircraft, launched from large, airborne carrier ships, patrol the skies, and naval vessels sail the ocean surrounding the island. While the actual mission may simply be to take out a specific building or clear the skies of a certain enemy type, destroying additional units earns points to upgrade your ship or purchase new weapons at the end of your run. That split-second decision of whether to quickly return to your carrier after completing an objective, or turn and fight the pursuing enemies, is where Sky Rogue finds its own unique flavor of thrill. While these missions are all ultimately built from a very small selection of variables, the changing enemy and environment layouts help keep the experience interesting.
One thing I was not expecting from Sky Rogue was that it would feature what has quickly become my favorite Joy-Con implementation in any Switch game thus far. By switching on the optional Danger Zone control scheme, the right Joy-Con becomes a flight stick. By holding it with the two triggers on top, with the face buttons also easily reachable by your thumb, you get a surprisingly solid control option. Meanwhile, the left Joy-Con can be held horizontally. By twisting it forward and back, you can adjust the speed of your aircraft. It is a delightful way to play, and my prefered control scheme when the situation allows. That being said, if motion controls aren’t your thing or just aren’t convenient on the go, that standard button controls are also responsive and satisfying.
Sky Rogue’s simple design and replayable gameplay loop are perfect for quick pick-up-and-play sessions. The procedural nature of its mission structure means that it never strays too far, meaning that gameplay can get a bit predictable, but the random nature of level layouts keep things from getting too stale. The large variety of aircraft and weapons also help to keep the player engaged. Topping things off with excellent optional motion controls makes this a great Switch port from the original PC version. If you like arcade flight-sims, rogue-lites, or just sublime low-poly graphics, Sky Rogue is worth checking out.