More Hot Shots! Part Deux than Top Gun.
If you’re old enough to remember the heyday of arcades and SEGA’s participation in the home console market as a platform holder, rather than a third party, then you may remember After Burner, the game which placed you right in the cockpit of a fighter jet as you engaged the enemy with machine guns and missile fire. This port of 2006’s After Burner Climax leaves the rotating cockpit in the arcade, and unfortunately, that’s not all it left behind.
At its core, the iOS version of the game is a lot like the arcade title (which was also ported to Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network in 2010), allowing you to take control of one of three fighter jets (Super Hornet, Strike Eagle, and Super Tomcat, in your choice of paint schemes) and blast off into the sky to shoot down as many enemy jets as you can in each level. This is achieved primarily through the firing of missiles, whose stock replenishes over time. You’re also armed with a machine gun, though much of the time it feels useless.
The big downside here is that the game simply does not control all that well. It features a “floating” joystick, which moves and relocates if you dare to stop touching it for a moment (and cannot be locked into place). It presents a problem when you’re trying to pull off some tight maneuvers and you instead feel like your movement in some directions is crippled. Early on, this is less of a problem, but as you progress through the game’s 20 levels, more precision is needed but not afforded.
You can adjust your speed, which presents new advantages and problems– going slower gives you more time to react to the environment and adjust for the floating joystick, but also makes you a slow target for enemies. Going faster, meanwhile, gives you less time to react and compensate, though enemies will have a more difficult time locking on. It becomes a choice between the frying pan and the fire.
One would hope that perhaps the gyroscopic tilt controls would make good where the joystick fails, but unfortunately, it’s even worse. While it begins well enough, it doesn’t take long before it loses its calibration and you’re flying at an angle, and this problem only worsens the more you use it. And in both scenarios, trying to pull off an evasive roll feels iffy and nearly impossible but for the whim of the computer.
If that wasn’t enough, the game offers you tons of extra options… except that we couldn’t toggle any of them. It would let us highlight something, such as lives, credits, missiles, and so forth, but wouldn’t actually let us do anything with them. They just simply do not work.
After Burner Climax is not a bad game in itself, but the iOS port is severely lacking, and a blemish on the series’ name. Unless you’re only interested in the first few stages, we recommend giving this one a pass, at least until there’s an update which fixes some of these problems and allows the game to be played as it’s supposed to. Instead, look at the Xbox Live Arcade or PlayStation Network versions if you want some approximation of the arcade experience at home.