The infamous Red Baron lives on, to terroize the Allies once again, in this WWI-era dogfighter...
Red Baron from Vivendi Games Mobile is actually the latest continuation of Sierra Entertainment's (itself now a part of Vivendi games) long-running franchise, named after the German pilot Manfred von Richthofen, also known as the "ace of aces." The PC titles were fairly sim-oriented, with realistic (for the time) physics, but this mobile release eschews its predecessors' realism (and their first person viewpoint) for a much more accessible, arcade-style experience.
The 2D dogfighting action takes place from a top-down viewpoint, with the free-roaming levels scrolling both vertically and horizontally. Despite the gameplay itself only taking place on a single (ahem) plane, the visuals were created out of multiple layers, and look great. You'll see airborne birds flying beneath the level of your biplane, but still well above ground level. The ground itself is quite detailed as well, with cargo trucks, and other non-essential details dotting the landscape.
Movement controls are relative to your biplane. Meaning "left" doesn't necessarily move your plane to the left of the screen - it turns the plane to the left, regardless of which direction it's currently facing. The center button fires a machine gun, 3 drops bombs on grounded targets, and 7 and 9 are mapped to spin and loop respectively, to dodge enemy fire.
While the controls aren't as finger-twistingly confusing as Vivendi Mobile's recent Legend of Spyro, they still created some problems. With spin mapped to 7 and bombs mapped to 3, it becomes virtually impossible to avoid enemy fire while simultaneously dropping bombs on critical targets, for example. Ditto for trying to effectively use, say, your machine gun and your plane's looping ability. You basically have to pick and choose what abilities you're going to need most, and arrange your thumbs accordingly ahead of time. It's too hard to press all the right buttons without taking your eyes off the action.
Control issues aside, the dogfighting is a fun, rewarding experience, once the basics are understood. The AI isn't too bright even in the final levels, but the game makes up for it with sheer numbers. It's a great feeling to slam on your breaks and see a German pilot or three zoom by you, giving you the dominant position. Dogfights often degenerate into a series of loops, with everyone just circling around one another over and over, but I still enjoyed breaking down the AI's patterns.
Lots of level variation also helped. Sometimes you'll be taking out land targets with your bombs, or escorting some defenseless tanks to safety. Other times you're out there as bait, only required with staying alive for the predetermined amount of time. Later levels get tough, but I never got frustrated to the point of feeling like they were impossible. At nine fairly brief missions I do wish there was more to the game's campaign, but a customizable dogfight mode helps. Here you can set the mode, set the number of enemies you'll square off against, the map, and other variables.
Red Baron isn't a great mobile game, but I enjoyed my time with it nonetheless. The dogfighting action is smooth and satisfying, and it's great to see a title hit handsets that hasn't been done two dozen times already.
What's Hot: Stiff challenge. Nice mission variety.
What's Not: Minor control issues. A little on the brief side.