Captain Skyhawk review –

Developer: Rare    Publisher: Milton Bradley    Release: 06/90   Genre: Action

Captain Skyhawk is one of the best names for a video game of all time and you cannot tell me otherwise. Now that we agree on to the game itself. I was a bit apprehensive about Captain Skyhawk back in the day as the disappointment of Top Gun was still fresh even three years later. However what I found was a game full of ideas that felt unique. It does not quite succeed at all of them but manages to be greater than the sum of its parts and capture the feeling of piloting a fighter jet better than most on the system.

In the majority of its stages Captain Skyhawk uses a top down, slightly isometric view. The game’s pace is fast and does an excellent job of making you feel like you are piloting a sleek jet. Although the view is overhead you can adjust altitude although I never found any particular reason to do so. There are no power-up drops; instead you earn credits for the number of enemies you shoot down to spend after docking with the space station. Your options are slight; faster machine gun fire, missiles, and bombs. Missiles are used in the game’s third person segments to lock-on to enemies. Bombs are so weak most of the time I forgot they exist. Luckily the default cannon is more than enough.

Captain Skyhawk is very similar to Rare’s own Cobra Triangle in its varied mission structure. Each of the game’s missions has multiple phases that change the gameplay. The most common is destroy the base, a straightforward action stage where you simply survive to the end level base and destroy it, which is easy as it barely fights back. Rescue the scientist is similar except you face a different boss. Dropping supplies challenges you to successfully……drop the supplies in a designated area, all while in constant motion. Docking with the space station is not a mission so much as it is where you go to purchase power-ups. And there are a number of dog fighting missions sprinkled throughout.

The level design for the most part is strong. Most maps consist of wide open spaces that allow you to pick a lane. Some routes have heavy resistance while others are treacherous due to the varying terrain. While the action switches viewpoints frequently each is polished aside from one. The third person dog fighting sequences are especially a highlight. The controls are smooth and with the targeting reticle blasting enemy ships is a breeze even without using missiles. It’s a lesson that similar titles on the system like After Burner could have used. In many ways this is the game we all wish Top Gun was. The weakest portion of the game is the docking segment. These serve as a waste of lives for something you might want to skip later on when you are fully stocked.

I made the comparison to Cobra Triangle for a reason. Like that title Captain Skyhawk suffers from many of the same flaws. The isometric terrain in the top down view is the biggest issue. Because the environment is pseudo 3d you must be conscious of where you fly. You can adjust altitude but it does little to avoid seemingly crashing into mountainsides and trees at random. This is frustrating and something that I never got the hang of even toward the end. If you can wrap your head around that the game’s repetition is another factor. Although mission objectives are varied the second half of the game is a repeat of the first with a different color palette. The previously mentioned title suffered the same fate but it is not as bad here. Had they trimmed the fat (docking is completely unnecessary) this could have been exceptional.

Captain Skyhawk 002 Captain Skyhawk 003

The look of Captain Skyhawk is striking. The viewpoint gives the game a slight 3d look that is distinct. The environment is made of geometric shapes that resemble polygons. While simple they do their job well and much of the environment is destructible to boot. The game moves at a brisk pace and only rarely slows down. The third person sequences are simpler and are missing the rolling terrain of similar titles. However the art slightly changes to at least offer some variety. The only negative I can give is that the back half is a repeat with an altered color palette. That does not take away from the fact that this game is a visual powerhouse.

In Closing

I like Captain Skyhawk in spite of its flaws. Graphically it is stunning and the developers packed it full of ideas. Not every element exhibits the same level of polish but the sum is greater than its individual parts. It is not a hidden gem but it is a title worth seeking out if you want variety in your action.

7 out of 10

Post Author: lordmrw

I’m just a dude who has been playing video games for over 30 years and want to share my extensive knowledge with the masses.

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