Firaxis, the developer behind Civilization, has been hectic on Apple platforms recently. The previous few weeks brought us the outstanding Mac port of XCOM: Opponent Unknown (by means of Feral Interactive) and the kid-friendly iOS approach game Haunted Hollow, and now the company’s presented Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol, a free-to-play, turn-based strategies game set in the skies above World War I.

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Managing a squadron of 4 pilots, it’s your job to direct them (normally 2 at a time) through objectives that may involve bombing opponent supply lines, escorting bombers, or shooting down agent balloons– and which will always, always include dogfights with two or more enemy aviators. While Ace Patrol presents an idealized version of the Great Battle– females aviator biplanes into battle, everyone sports a cheeful smile all the time, and no aviator ever dies– it takes a relatively practical method towards air travel, at least insofar as its turn-based setup allows. Your input is limited to tapping on motion markers, but things like altitude, g-forces and the model of airplane you are managing influence which maneuvers are readily available in each turn, in addition to how exact and damaging your attacks are. And as your aviators obtain experience (by obliterating various other pilots), they can open brand-new steps, like barrel rolls, tighter turns and loops that let them outmaneuver their challengers.

If a drawn-out campaign is not your thing, there’s also a two-player mode that allows fast dogfights, although as of this composing it just works by switching the exact same iPad in between players. There’s a network choice, but it obviously will not be useful up until a future upgrade.

However you choose to tackle it, Ace Patrol is light, fun, and surprisingly including, although its ‘free’ price tag is deceptive, paying nothing only gets you the first six missions of the British campaign. Paying a buck unlocks 18 more, while another $4 gets you the French, German, and American projects– all which are basically identical apart from the uniforms and airplanes. Ace pilots are also sold separately for a dollar each (or $5 for all eight), and if your aviators are in the medical facility or imprisoned behind adversary lines, you can also pay $0.99 to spring them all rather than waiting for them to recuperate. Oddly, none of this is annoying– the projects are sensibly priced for exactly what you get, and the game actually limits you to three paid recoveries per campaign– but it can get expensive.

The bottom line. Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol is a deceptively deep, highly polished and remarkably addicting appearance at the approach behind traditional dogfights.

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