Games featuring jets and any sort of flying around on the App Store always tend to annoy me because they always want to take advantage of an iOS device's gyroscopic features. While it's cool that they want to harness the accelerometer, who the hell wants to hold up a big ol' iPad in front of their faces and then turn it all kinds of crazy directions? With that said, Z2Live Inc. has just released Metalstorm: Aces, a game in which you pilot jets and take to the skies. 

When you first load up the game, you'll notice that the package is very polished and that the visuals are great. While the action and the jets are rendered in 3D, the user interface, characters and cutscenes are all in a high-definition 2D style that's reminiscent of some high-budget Saturday morning cartoon or even some motion comics. Menus are slick, provide a lot of information and even have satisfying sound effects when clicking on buttons. So such a polished presentation immediately raises the hopes for an overall solid package.

There are three main modes in the game: Aces Campaign, Survival and Versus. Survival tasks you with killing as many enemy fighters as you can before dying and Vs. mode lets you hook up with other players online to participate in dogfights. These two modes are pretty straightforward and help extend the game's shelf-life.

The Campaign mode, however, is where all of the meat of the game is located. The story goes that an elite group of pilots called the Aces trained you and your organization of flyboys and flygirls. One day, out of nowhere, they turned on you and started attacking. It is now up to you to hunt them down and drag them out of the sky.

The Campaign is stretched out over 15 levels, each with their own set of stages. Each level features a different Ace that acts as a boss. In each stage, you'll either be tasked with bring down wave after wave of enemy fighters, destroying certain objectives or even just seeing how long you can withstand an all-out attack. One particular favorite Ace of mine was a monk named Thelonious, which was a name and occupation that made me chuckle as I blasted him out of the sky.

Completing objectives rewards you with parts, credits and insignias. You can use these bits of currency to buy jets, upgrade parts and purchase special ammo. Upgrading can actually take time, but you can speed up the process by paying out insignias.

Of course, once I saw this upgrade system, I could smell the in-app purchase trap that had been laid out for me. It's not necessary to spend real money to buy the in-game currency, but it does make getting more powerful a lot quicker. So if you don't have the patience to dump into grinding to build up resources, you can always buy your way to upgrade heaven.

My absolute biggest gripe about this game, other than all of upgrade system stuff, are the controls. Your jet is controlled by tilting your device in different ways and then tapping virtual buttons on the screen. Tilting away from you causes your plane to go down. Tilting towards yourself makes your plane fly up. Tilting left and right will do the same thing to your jet. You can swipe left or right on the screen to do a barrel roll or up and down for Immelmann turns.

While these all work the way they should, you have to calibrate the controls over and over if you alter your original position even just a little bit. And if you're playing on a larger device, your arms will eventually get tired. It's not worth the aggravation to just basically get enemy jets in your sight to fire off some homing missiles. The actually missions themselves are dry and not exciting at all, even if they are pretty. You only end up receiving a lot of pains for very little gain.

If only a virtual thumbstick or something similar was implemented, the game would be a lot more fun to play. But as it stands, it's kind of just a cumbersome shooter with pretty graphics and an upgrade system designed to entice you to spend your money on in-app purchases. If you're a fan of flying games and don't mind the somewhat frustrating controls, go for it. Otherwise, play what you can because it's free, and then move on.


App Store Link: Metalstorm: Aces for iPhone & iPad | By Z2Live, Inc. | Price: Free | Version: 1.2.1 | 352 MB | Rating: 9+

6.5 out of 10 arcade sushi rating