If you’re going to name a game after someone, Amelia Earhart is a fine choice. Not only was she the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, but she also formed a feminist organisation, may have been a spy, and disappeared under mysterious circumstances. She was, as the children say, ‘lit’.
Airheart developers Blindflug Studios put this inspiration to good use. They’ve mixed 1920’s biplane aesthetic with steampunk and anime elements to create something unique. It’s certainly one of the better-looking indie games we’ve seen on Switch, full of luscious trees growing on islands, floating in a beautiful blue sky.
You play as Amelia, who lives in a floating city called Granaria. Her day job involves jumping into a biplane and catching fish. Sky fish. This is achieved simply by flying your little plane into them, earning money that’s later used to purchase upgrades.
The levels have an interesting verticality to them. Each is essentially one ‘tier’ higher than the last, and in each, you can enter something which will propel you higher.
If only things were as simple as catching fish before skyrocketing to the next tier.
Enemy biplanes, drones, and the occasional massive blimpy boss dwell within the levels. You need to get your weapons trained on them, via the age-old technique of twin-stick shooting. This isn’t a twitch shooter like Geometry Wars, though – it’s slower and more tactical. There’s a vastly different pace. It’s all about making sure you have enough manoeuvrability and that you don’t take on too much at once.
The handling on the planes is less than ideal initially, but if you persevere, the handling model is quite unique and rewarding.
When your plane starts to resemble Swiss cheese, it’s time to return home. This is where the verticality comes in. You must navigate around the islands from previous levels on the return journey. It’s a nice touch in a game already filled with twists.
At home, you can upgrade by buying better parts, which assists in reaching further stages. You can also craft. We felt a little blind picking some of our upgrades – enemies drop scrap, and you can combine it all to make lots of useful stuff, but the entire process is rather trial and error. I didn’t want to sit there, trying different combinations until something good came up. I would rather jump in my plane and get back into the sky. Your mileage may vary. Lots of people love a spot of crafting.
The Switch version comes with a co-op “Party Mode”, which is absent in the other versions. In it, you work together to control a zeppelin. Players can be assigned different roles, mounting guns, steering, healing (with a little mini-game) and other crucial functions. It reminded me of the board game Space Alert. If you’ve played Space Alert, you will know that this is a great thing. There’s nothing funnier than trying to work together as a team and failing tremendously.
While there are few performance issues in handheld mode, including some lengthy loading times to endure, we really liked Airheart. If you’re up for something bright and extremely breezy that still provides a challenge, this comes recommended.