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Game Review

Thorium Wars: Attack of the Skyfighter Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Tim Latshaw

Thor' real

It’s not that space shooters don’t exist on Nintendo systems, but there’s certainly not enough of them to keep cockpit-hopping fans from feeling parched. 3PM Games took advantage of this vacuum by releasing Thorium Wars on DSiWare and now, just like the alien antagonists of the series, it's back with Thorium Wars: Attack of the Skyfighter on the 3DS eShop.

As the title suggests, Attack of the Skyfighter focuses only on flying craft, offering three models of fighter for most missions. The Utu Skyfighter is the middle-of-the-road choice, with the Indra sacrificing speed for heavier armour and firepower and the more fragile and softer-hitting Shango made to zoom. The differences in stats are pretty tangible; enough that you might consider your choices depending on what kind of situation is presented.

All of the fighters offer smooth piloting thanks to a tight, button-only control scheme. The Circle Pad naturally shoulders the manoeuvring work, with A and B on throttle and brake, X to barrel roll, Y to look behind the ship and R to fire. The L button places a helpful targeting box over the nearest enemy, but doesn’t engage any sort of homing lock-on — the D-pad is also put to good use, with Up activating a speed boost and Left and Right toggling between rapid-fire and charged weapons. It shouldn’t take much time until the setup becomes second nature.

The mission count comes in at a slightly disappointing eight, one of which is a gratefully included but still bland tutorial. Stages vary between navigating the tunnel-like routes of canyons, caves, or stations and the “free range mode” of city or sky battlegrounds. Although the basics of stage setup can feel somewhat similar, things are nicely spiced up with different objectives in each mission. One stage, where you're set the task of taking down a chain of three titanic, floating bases in the open sky, is especially refreshing.

Navigation is a little improved in Attack of the Skyfighter thanks to the simple addition of compass directions on its rotating radar. Even so, some stages can still be quite maze-like, and a blinking dot on your screen may still not provide you enough information to avoid unintentionally backtracking through levels with few landmarks or differentiations in them. Some locations also feel tough to get around not due to the response of controls, but because the rooms and tunnels feel too confined; finding yourself having to turn around at these spots is doable, but still feels more like getting out of a cramped parking lot than slick jetting. An option to pull a U-turn a la Star Fox 64 would be very welcome.

Stages can be taken on again at any time once first completed, and at any of the game’s three difficulty settings. This is good for those who want to try going in with different ships or are shooting for medals based on how often one does not burst into flames. The game can be quite tough at times, with one ram from an enemy ship enough to put your own out of commission, but levels are generously sprinkled with checkpoints to ease the pain.

Attack of the Skyfighter has a good look overall, with the ship models being especially eye-catching, but a lot of it feels pulled from the bag of general sci-fi parts — the music, although limited to a few tracks, does nevertheless add a good dose of atmosphere. There is a bit of story, with briefings laying out the Thorians’ motivations and how you, the only starfighter they ever seem able to get inside their bases, will thwart them, but it doesn’t seem that involved. This is perfectly fine for anyone who just wants to shoot things and save the day, but others looking for characters, motivations, or a sense of squadwork might feel lonely instead.

Conclusion

Thorium Wars: Attack of the Skyfighter is a solidly crafted game that does a lot right in offering a classic, arcade-leaning space shooter experience. It could stand to have more play content (all eight stages can be cleared in a little over 2 hours on medium difficulty — faster if you’re a pro) and added oomph in terms of story and a more life-filled, interactive universe, but anyone whose finger itches more on the trigger of a flight stick than a gun should certainly take a look.

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User Comments (19)

CanisWolfred

#1

CanisWolfred said:

Sounds good. Definitely might pick it up some time soon, but I still gotta get Azure Striker Gunvolt first...

unrandomsam

#2

unrandomsam said:

Seems like a lot of buttons to use. Prefer combinations of buttons to having to move my hands all the time.

I will probably get it if it comes to the UK.

JJtheTexan

#4

JJtheTexan said:

I really enjoyed the original Thorium Wars and look forward to downloading this one. Will help tide me over until the new Star Fox comes out.

@TimLatshaw I notice you refer to the game as "Attack of the Starfighter" a few times in the article there :P

TimLatshawAdmin

#5

TimLatshaw said:

@JJtheTexan Grah. I was worried about doing that from the start of the review and ended up doing it anyway! Thanks for catching that!

binkster

#7

binkster said:

That tunnel level on the 1st Thorium was horrible!!!!!
Absence of Quaternions?

3dcaleb

#9

3dcaleb said:

theres no mention of the 3d, how it looks, i assume the game IS in 3d right?

eviLaTtenDant

#11

eviLaTtenDant said:

Does anyone know if this game has multiple save files?
I might get it when there's a discount on it in Europe. While i liked the first game that was mostly due to the novelty of having download games on a portable. Looking back the first one was fun, but not 8€ fun.

flojomojo

#14

flojomojo said:

I guess this is as close to Rogue Squadron 3D as we are going to get? Sigh, okay I'll take it.

XCWarrior

#15

XCWarrior said:

Sounds like a solid game. Need more of these on the eshop. Will pick up soon, have like 2 other eshop titles to play thru first.

Kilroy

#16

Kilroy said:

Skimmed through the review. Does this have the game-breakingly annoying infinitely spawning enemies like the first game?

Arkaein

#17

Arkaein said:

Hello everyone, I'm the lead developer for Thorium Wars: Attack of the Skyfighter. I thought I'd take this opportunity to address some of the questions about the game.

@3dcaleb the game definitely makes use of the 3D effect. In fact, almost all of the game can run at a full 60 FPS even when the 3D is enabled. You should be able to see a trailer in the eShop that was captured with the 3D effect enabled at medium strength (probably only in the North America eShop).

@binkster Attack of the Skyfighter has a tunnel-based mission, but unlike the original Thorium Wars this mission is mostly about obstacle avoidance, with a much wider variety of obstacles. There aren't any extremely difficult turns to navigate, like in the first game. Checkpoints are also a more frequent, and at lower levels of difficulty (which can be selected before starting any mission, even mid-campaign) you can use a lower speed in the tunnel.

@Kilroy I think there are only 3 missions in total that have any repeat spawning enemies, and their use is much more focused. The greater power of the 3DS compared to the DSi has made it easier to use larger numbers of non-respawning enemies, with just a few mission sections using respawning where it is most appropriate. Even in these cases, we've taken care to reduce the frequency of respawning.

@AVahne while the total playtime for the game can vary a lot from person to person, we think there is a lot of replay value after completing the campaign. The game features three levels of difficulty, with performance-based medals awarded separately for each mission and level of difficulty. So if you play through the game on medium difficulty, you can challenge yourself on higher difficulty, or try for perfect runs on easier difficulty. Fastest mission times are also tracked, and with three different fighters you can replay missions using a different fighter for a new experience.

AVahne

#18

AVahne said:

@Arkaein
Thanks for the reply, it's great to see an indie developer take the time to check comments about their game and make replies. Eventually I will be checking this game out once I'm no longer in the red.

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