To The Air
One thing that I liked about Time Ace right away was how there was actually a pretty decent story being told, with some nice still picture and text cutscenes to watch. No it’s not a truly deep story or even totally original, but it adds an awful lot to an otherwise simplistic game like this. Short cutscenes in between missions and objectives kept things interesting for me and moving right along.
Now that said, the heart of the game is piloting various aircraft throughout different periods of time in a somewhat 3D flying environment. As you’ll notice from the first mission, you’re basically set on a course that is straight forward, with a little bit of room to the sides. If you try to turn around to pick up floating power ups or what not, the camera pushes you back in the ‘right’ direction. Other missions are more open, which is odd, but notable. Otherwise, for the most part, things work about as you would expect them. You simply fly towards enemies and objectives (weapon stock piles, aircraft carriers, etc.) and pummel them with your limitless bullets or light them up with more powerful weapons that are limited like missiles. You can boost by pressing X if you have boost fuel, and you can brake in air using the air brake. Left and right triggers let you do a barrel rollI didn’t really use the Stylus at all in this game actually. The bottom screen is primarily used as a radar and it shows how many missiles you have available.
Each mission starts you with six planes. You’ll start where you died as long as you have another available plane to spawn back in with. If you lose this last plane, you have to start the entire mission over again, which gets old fast. Some type of mid-mission checkpoint would have been a great inclusion because this is one of those games that, while it’s pretty fun and addictive, it’s not really all that great in a lot of other ways so if you’re like me you just want to enjoy it and play it through and move on. Having to restart missions over and over takes away from the fun factor tremendously and that doesn’t leave a lot left. Still, the missions are fairly well balanced although I have yet to be able to complete one without having to restart at least five times, although I’ve come close. Small, rare health pickups are available from time to time, but other than that your only defense is to shoot first and to avoid the heavy amount of fire coming your way; which actually looks like photon and laser fire more often than not. The string of objectives you need to complete during missions makes things exciting too; going into a mission you don’t know what you’ll encounter. The first mission, for example, makes it look like all you’re going to do is destroy a train. That turns out to be only one of three primary objectives however, as the last leg of the mission has you shooting out four engines of a large bomber.
Time Ace is an all right looking DS game. It’s quite colorful, too. Some missions have open, blue skies with clouds here and there, others are more closed with gray mountain ranges, and dark colors. The difference from one mission to another can be like night and day, which is nice. The animation is also smooth, although the polygon count is pretty low and the textures aren’t very detailed. Given the choice I would prefer smoother animation anyway for this game. The game doesn’t sound bad either. The soundtrack is orchestral and nicely put together. I think it fits well enough with the flow of the game; certainly worse choices could have been made. I liked some of the effects too, like the gun fire wasn’t too shabby at all.
Time Ace features about twenty missions of single player action, in which you can revisit older missions with the new, unlocked planes you earn along the way. Doing so will improve your score if you are inclined to play through it again, but one time through will more than satisfy most people. A four-player multiplayer component is available, but it is for dog fighting instead of co-op play, which could have been interesting. Regardless, each player is required to have a hard copy of the game which will likely make it tough to find a friend play with.