Perhaps in another life I’ll be a fighter pilot. Screeching through the air, firing missiles and shooting down enemy aircraft at supersonic speeds. It just sounds so exciting, if I weren’t such a chicken. Thankfully, I have video games to ease the pain with excessive destruction, exciting gameplay, and fun airplane noises so I don’t have to make them with my mouth anymore. Developed and published by Satur Entertainment, Aircraft Evolution is a retro 2D sidescroller with a modern aesthetic that has satiated by lust for destruction, at least temporarily.
In Aircraft Evolution, you will pilot a variety of different aircraft through every possible time period, from World War One to the distant future and beyond. Mechanically similar to the 1987 game, Wings of Fury, each level features a different objective. Whether it is to eliminate all enemies, kill a boss, or destroy a base, you’ll need expert timing and control to complete your mission. Your two primary forms of attacks are your machine gun and your bombs, which can all be upgraded as you progress. Carefully time your bombs in order to do the most damage to enemy forces, but be aware of your ammo, fuel, and resources, as running out can turn a successful bombing run into a suicide mission.
As the name implies, you’ll have to evolve your aircraft over the course of the game. Speed, handling, weapons, and more can all be upgraded, but you just won’t get the same performance from a wooden biplane as you will from a fighter jet. You can select a number of different bombs to use as well, from standard explosives to cluster bombs, to napalm. Raining fire and death upon your enemies is just as much fun as it sounds, but the pixelated explosions and physics makes each bomb feel powerful and impactful. Dropping a bomb at just the right moment to trigger a domino effect of explosions across enemy lines is not only strategically satisfying, but it also feels really good.
Aircraft Evolution features 2D pixel art and every design, from enemy forces to explosions and the several different player controlled aircraft, was obviously given great care. While gameplay is reminiscent of the Super Nintendo era, the style and graphics are modern and sharp. Different environments ranging from flat valleys, train tracks, cities and mountains, each provide new gameplay elements while also cultivating a unique atmosphere depending on where and when the level takes place. Animations are incredibly smooth and, despite there being many enemies and projectiles on the screen at once, I never suffered framerate issues.
Taking place over four eras of history, Aircraft Evolution features 40 separate missions of pure destruction and mindless fun. Whether you’re gliding over enemies in World War One, or dropping cluster bombs on a technologically advanced base in the distant future, each mission provides tons of entertainment and hours of fun, despite each level being relatively short. Although not very long, each level provides a different set of challenges and requires new skills for the player to master. Earlier levels focus largely on timing your attacks so they hit their targets consistently, but later levels focus more on maneuvering and combining attacks. Additionally, earlier wooden planes are significantly more difficult to handle making early levels a bit tougher than they probably should be. This difficulty curve can be frustrating at times, but the game never feels unfair and eventually succeeding provides a great sense of accomplishment.
Aircraft Evolution is a fun and casual side-scroller, combining retro gameplay with contemporary graphics. The large variety of upgrades and vehicles means there are plenty of content to keep you entertained for quite awhile, even if there isn’t much in the way of replayability after completing the game and unlocking everything. The beautiful graphics and environments keep things from getting stale and the animations and sound cultivate a high energy experience. While the difficulty curve can be confusing and frustrating at times, Aircraft Evolution is overall an enjoyable homage to old school side scrollers.