The Bottom Line: Though it has the engine of a solid shooter, this little arcade flier is too overloaded to reach cruising altitude.
Imagine the sleekest of sports cars. A little red coupe that accelerates swiftly and rides like a dream. A beautifully engineered machine.
Now, imagine that same car with a humongous spoiler bolted onto the trunk, neon green racing stripes down the middle, rainbow LEDs under the carriage, and tofu-delivery decals plastered all over the body. Maybe one of these additions would be acceptable, but by implementing them all, we’ve turned a beautiful car into a vehicular manifestation of, I daresay, chaos.
So it goes with Skies of Chaos. It has the fundamentals of a fun little shooter, but feature bloat, intrusive story elements, and overactive visuals undermine it at every turn.
Explosions in the Sky
At its core, Skies of Chaos is a vertically scrolling shooter in the vein of arcade classics such as 1942. It’s a mobile game, so controls are touch-based: You maneuver the plane directly with your finger and firing is handled automatically. On-screen buttons let you launch bombs and activate shields, both of which draw from your pool of energy. Enemies approach from multiple angles, and in most cases you can choose whether to engage or evade. On the easiest difficulty you can get away with avoiding most of them, but to pass harder difficulties you’ll often need to eliminate 75% of baddies in a given stage – no small feat.
Accompanying you on the journey is a wide cast of co-pilots. These cute anthropomorphic characters are the stars of the story, and they also provide useful stat boosts for your plane. While their wisecracks are occasionally amusing, it’s worth noting that there is no way to skip them. A line that’s chuckle-worthy the first time is much less charming when you read it for the 15th time as you try to get 3-stars on a given stage.
The visuals suffer from a similar kind of hyperactivity. Oil rigs pump for black gold, cacti sway in the wind, rabbits hop across the screen, green ooze bubbles ominously, and soldiers march to and fro. The backdrops look great both still and in motion, but it’s this motion that proves to be too much. The busy visuals serve make it hard to discern bullets and enemy craft.
In a shorter game the above flaws might’ve been more forgivable, but a short game this is not. Skies of Chaos is an absolute grind, boasting multiple currencies that it doles out in paltry quantities. Though I really to experiment with the wide selection of planes, weapons, and co-pilots, the in-game economy discouraged me from doing so. The resources I gathered from completing stages were hardly enough to keep my primary ride up to par, to say nothing of the dozens of other aircraft collecting dust in my hanger.
Because my alternate planes all lagged several levels behind my primary ride, they were too weak to tackle new stages. That meant I either had to grind for resources to make them viable, or use them to replay previously completed stages – options that would both see me flying through old territory. A little grinding is all well and good, but in Skies of Chaos upgrading every aircraft could take dozens if not hundreds of hours. It makes me suspect that the developers originally planned to monetize the game via microtransactions, only to remove them after making a deal with Netflix.
I hate to be so down on this game. It’s clear that the developers put their hearts into it. But it really is a case of a few questionable game-design decisions bringing down what could’ve been a solid experience. You don’t have to take my word for it, though. Skies of Chaos is part of Netflix’s expansion into the gaming market, so if you’re a Netflix subscriber you can try it for yourself at no additional cost. You may find an hour or two of enjoyment in it even if you don’t feel compelled to finish it.