Afterburner: Black Falcon Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

PlayStation Portable
Release date:
March 21, 2007
Planet Moon Studios
1 - 4

Afterburner: Black Falcon

Flying the unfriendly skies isn't such a good idea.

Review by James Cunningham (Email)
April 10th 2007

I don't give up on games very often. Walking away and writing something off as more trouble than it's worth just sits wrong with me, especially when the game has the heritage of the Afterburner series. But Afterburner: Black Falcon has made me throw up my hands in despair, because while almost everything is an amazing upgrade to the old quarter-muncher, it still comes off as unplayable in the end.

The presentation is certainly nice enough. Three different pilots are selectable at the start, and each have a different bonus goal to earn with varying styles of play. Sonic is all about speed, Bull is destructive, and Shinsei is after a high score. While three of the four bonus goals will be identical from one character to another, that fourth one theoretically makes them play slightly differently. In practice, though, it all comes down to destroying as much as possible as fast as possible without dying, and that can't be a bad thing.

Unfortunately, it's just not that simple. The big point items and bonus goals are generally ground targets, and the air-to-surface missiles only fire so fast. Jamming on the afterburner isn't going to let you destroy all those lovely targets, but flying at normal speed is a great way to end up a spinning pile of flaming wreckage. Memorizing the level layout will help, of course, as will upgrading the wide variety of jets at your disposal, but death is going to happen frustratingly often.

So a level generally boils down to picking a jet, while keeping in mind that the slower ones give a better chance of nailing the ground targets. Fly level, die, fly farther, die, admire the level's scenery, die, wonder what's on TV, die, pull out UMD and play something else. Then guilt sets in, maybe I was just playing it wrong or something, and try again. Die a few more times, succeed at last, upgrade a jet, and start the cycle all over again. Eventually, the points earned during a level will allow better jet upgrades beyond those initially available, but by then it just doesn't seem worth the effort.

The most frustrating thing is that this should be good. The graphics are sharp, there's a good variety of jets to choose, the jets all handle differently but are still quick and responsive, there are lots of enemies to blow up, and it feels like a great revival of the classic arcade game, except that it isn't. There's a lot to like in Afterburner: Black Falcon, but the endless level repetition until that magic moment of getting it just right leeches all the fun from the game.

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