Developed by Blindflug Studios AG Published by Blindflug Studios AG Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (available on Steam)
AIRHEART: Tales of broken Wings was a game I was expecting to enjoy. When I walked away from it I felt like I had gone on a journey, one filled with hope, curiosity, and sometimes grief and frustration. Airheart is a diesel punk scavenger/dog fighter that takes place over a series of floors, each a different elevation in the sky and containing what seem almost like their own biomes. You play as Amelia, a young girl who wants to make it big and sets out to begin her life as a sky fisherman. The goal is to reach the top to bag the biggest catch of them all, a sky whale. This is no easy task however as she must reach into the upper parts of the sky and face the many dangers. It’s a grand tale despite its simplicity.
Airheart‘s art style, like its story, is a bit on the simple side but not without its own charm. The approach to it has kind of a 1950’s aesthetic for things like menus and plane designs. The artwork is simple enough that you can make out necessary details, but not simplistic enough as to be boring. The use of color varies depending on which layer you encounter but overall Airheart has a great color palette. I was surprised how detailed the planes, air carriers, and even small forests have despite the simplistic approach. The sound design takes a similar but effective approach. Every weapon, special ability, and layer all have unique sounds so everything is distinguishable. The soundtrack is also quite nice. Tracks range from old west style guitar pieces, slow calm piano pieces, and upbeat electronic music that evoke a sense of wonder and adventure. There is also some light voice acting which really only deserves a brief mention because it is sparsely used in the game.
Flying your plane through these unique areas is really a treat. Each layer has a different layout and contains different kinds of fish, plant life, and even sky pirates with different ships and weapons. Your objective is to catch fish, find reserves of oil, and scavenge parts from enemies you defeat. The game is done in a top down style and controls like your typical twin stick shooter. The left stick controls the direction you fly and the right is used to aim your weapons.
You start with a simple plane with moderate stats but through your earnings you can buy new plane parts and weapons to really customize yourself. You can have up to two regular weapons and a harpoon gun that lets you snag things. The harpoon is useful in catching fish but can also be used in combat. It’s essential later on when taking heavy armored pirates as you can remove their armor and guns from their ship with a well-placed shot. It’s a nice added thrill. But my biggest pleasure was trying a bunch of different combinations to find my ideal plane. Each plane consists of a motor, a base body, and a wing set. Each one contributes to different stats. Some are bulkier and can take more hits, others a slimmer and have better maneuverability. It’s fun to mix and match everything.
Unfortunately it’s not all pleasantries. The higher you go the greater difficulty it is to return and keep your findings. If you take too much damage you are forced to return to your home base, and the longer you fall the more things you lose. Also, if this does happen you have a very high chance of potentially permanently losing a purchased part. This can be somewhat mitigated if you purchase multiple copies of a part, but this has another risk involved. The amount of farming you can do for fish is limited to its population that slowly regenerates. This means the bulk of your progress must be made by progressing upwards.
I managed to start making progress after I realized this but I wish that was better explained so I could be ready for it. You must play carefully when it comes to combat especially early on because you can lose your parts and weapons. All while you forcibly press on to higher levels which will make it more difficult. Despite this, I still didn’t find myself quitting from frustration. Airheart’s charm, fun gameplay, customization, and interesting world kept me spurred on. Despite a catastrophic loss early in the game and not realizing the early area resources dwindling I still pressed on. That is a testament to its quality.