Sky Force Reloaded

One of my favorite top-down shooters of the past couple years — Sky Force — is back. And it's picked up right where Sky Force 2014 left off, with updated graphics and audio, new stages, new bosses — and hours and hours of gameplay.

You're in a sort of space-age laser plane, shooting your way through other planes and lasers and helicopters and bosses. You start out with a fairly well-armed flier, only to have it destroyed by the daughter of the general that was defeated two years ago. From there, you're starting from scratch. Basic plane, no real weapons of which to speak. As your work your way through the stages, you'll gain stars, with which you can buy new weapons and other upgrades. Each stage has challenges you'll need to meet.

Those hidden cards are still around, offering even more upgrades. But this time some of those upgrades are temporary, and others permanent. There also are plane cards to be had — complete a a set and you'll get a whole new plane to fly. (I'm only on my second one so far.) Plus there are trophies to be earned, leaderboards to climb, and multiple difficulty modes to keep you coming back.

Sky Force Reloaded is free. But it does have some in-app purchases. For 99 cents you'll get 5,000 stars to spend. That can help you a little bit as you get going. I went ahead and ponied up for the $1.99 star doubler, just to make things go that much quicker. Another $1.99 will get rid of the interstitial ads (which at least are well done and not all that annoying), and another $1.99 beyond that will speed up plane production (you get 10 to burn through), so you don't have to wait so long between games. Those IAPs absolutely are optional, though. And while they'll help you progress a little faster, they don't change the gameplay at all.

And perhaps the best thing is that they didn't break what worked the first time. Unlike, say, Hungry Shark World, there's no change in the speed of the game itself. The graphics are familiar.

This is one of those games that for me is a great time-waster. There's no real investment other than a few minutes here or there. Or hours. It's that good.