AIRHEART – Tales of Broken Wings Review – Nintendo Switch
April 19, 2019
Developer: Blindflug Studios
Publisher: Blindflug Studios
Reviewer: Tyler Higgs
At first glance, I was intrigued by AIRHEART. It looked to be a very interesting take on the twin stick shooter genre. It combined it with flying, and RPG style elements which, I thought sounded like a great idea. That’s all I really knew about AIRHEART before I had the chance to play it. Now that I have had the chance, here are my thoughts.
AIRHEART- Tales of Broken Wings is a twin-stick shooter RPG, developed, and published by Blindflug Studios. You play as a young pilot named Amelia, who dreams of reaching the top of the world.
To do this, she takes her small plane, and goes through different layers in this “skyworld” known as Grandia. The story is displayed through some cutscenes with voice acting, once you reach new environments.
The story isn’t overly compelling, and didn’t make me feel too motivated about Amelia’s ambition. AIRHEART isn’t a game worth playing for its story.
AIRHEART’s gameplay all takes place in the sky. You will take your plane to explore the different environments, and fight off against dangerous sky pirates.
Before you start playing, you will have the option between two different modes. Essentially, it’s choosing between a casual or hardcore experience. If you choose the casual mode there’s no permanent game over, and you won’t lose any parts if your airplane is destroyed. The more hardcore option turns the game into a rogue-like, because you can lose parts from your airplane, and you can permanently destroy your plane as well. I have to give a hand to the developers for including two options to play the game. It’s a very player-friendly way to design a game, and can provide two completely different experiences.
Once you start, you’re brought into the open sky with nothing but your plane, and a dream of reaching the top layer. Your plane comes equipped with changeable parts such as the body, engine, wings, and a variety of different weapons. The weapons come in many different forms such as shotgun, flamethrower, and a gatling gun (my personal favorite). Customization wise, there’s enough variety in the parts and weapons, to keep most players satisfied.
Besides weapons, one of the other most important mechanics is your harpoon. Your harpoon can be used to latch onto things like enemies. You can capture enemies with your harpoon, and drag them around with you. Subsequently, once you have dragged them around for a bit, you can just destroy them since they’re immobilized. It’s really fun to use, and I think the harpoon was a great mechanic. (Editor’s note; I may need to buy this game just for this one gameplay mechanic!)
You will need this harpoon for some enemies since they have shields that protect them. Using the harpoon allows you to rip the shields off of them. The harpoon also has one other use, and that’s using it to capture…fish?
Capturing fish will be your main source of income in this world. Abundances of fish roam the skies waiting to be captured, which is pretty easy to do. All you have to do is fly over them, and they will add to your total amount of cash.
The fish start out being quite big and slow, so they’re easy to capture. As you reach new layers, new smaller, and faster, fish will appear. These fish are worth more money, since they can be quite a bit more difficult to catch. That’s most likely when you will start using your harpoon to capture these fish by immobilizing them. Capturing fish is a unique way to earn money, and goes well with the game’s fast paced gameplay.
Once you feel you are strong enough to move on, you have to find the launch base that will bring you to the next layer. Once you reach the final layer, you will face off against a boss. Defeating the boss will give you access to the next zone, where you will repeat the process all over again.
Defeating enemies and bosses not only gives you the satisfaction of sending these pirates to their fiery doom (maybe that was a little too hardcore). They will also drop materials for you to use when you return to your hangar.
When you return from the sky, you have things you can do before you head back up. You can head to the shop and purchase new parts for your plane, or you can craft them.
Crafting is done by using the parts you have obtained from defeating sky pirates. The crafting is pretty elaborate, and will see you combining materials to create new materials, you then combine those materials to make new parts. It’s much cheaper to craft the parts you need, then to buy them in the shop. That’s especially true when you get further, and need better parts. Crafting seems like the way to go, the problem is that it’s really frustrating.
When you’re crafting, you’re pretty much playing a guessing game. You are shown at the bottom, the different things you have the materials to make. However, what you aren’t shown, is how to make them. Furthermore, once you do make something, there’s no recipe book to record how it was made. You may go through the work of making some elaborate material, and completely forget how to make it again. I recommend keeping a notepad with you to write down combinations. If you don’t, you might tear your hair out trying to remember.
I understand what the developers were trying to go for. They wanted players to feel a sense of discovery, and accomplishment, every time they created their own new part. Unfortunately, without the ability to know how to create parts, you will spend a lot of time using trial and error. It’s sad, because I wanted to enjoy crafting my own parts. Most of the time, however, I just settled on buying them from the shop. The crafting just didn’t feel like it was worth putting time into.
AIRHEART on the Switch does come with a new exclusive mode called Party mode. It’s a multiplayer mode for up to 4 people, that let’s you team up to pilot a Zeppelin. I didn’t get to spend much time with this mode, unfortunately. It is nice that there is some type of multiplayer support!
AIRHEART’s world is filled with gorgeous, colorful designs, that hook you in instantly. All of the environments look lush, and fit very well with the game’s setting.
The seasonal take on each of the zones gives them their own unique character, and does a great job at distinguishing them from one another.
The enemy design is another of the game’s strong suits. There is plenty of variety, ranging from your small planes, to the big zeppelins, and the abundance of different stationary attack towers. Each of the enemies had a different way to effectively take them down. Because of this, and the constantly changing difficulty, the gameplay never became too repetitive.
The soundtrack was alright. It had a nice “adventure” feel to it, and I found it mixed pretty well with the game’s presentation. I don’t think it’s going to win any awards, but it wasn’t bad my any means.
From a technical standpoint, I had very few problems with AIRHEART. (I think these ports are getting better and better). Resolution wise, the game looks great in both handheld, and docked mode. I almost never had an frame issues, except a few dips when I got to the higher layers and zones. Overall, there are no real noticeable issues.
I did however, have issues with the controls. Gameplay was very fun don’t get me wrong, but it was hard to navigate with the plane. Aiming was hard to maneuver, and the plane felt very stiff to fly. This, coupled with the fact that almost everything you hit would take away some of your health, was pretty irritating.
I think if the controls had a bit more work, so as to not feel so stiff, the gameplay would have felt much better
Overall, AIRHEART was an adventurous game, that changed itself enough to be unique compared to other twin-stick shooters available on the Nintendo Switch.
While the crafting system felt poorly implemented, and the controls could have been better, there’s a lot to like about AIRHEART.
If you’re looking for a new twin-stick shooter, that does well to mix itself up from others, you should definitely pick up AIRHEART. This game’s great for casual, as well as more hardcore players. As long as you’re able to get used to the stiff controls, you should have no problem with AIRHEART.