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Sky Rogue delivers the romance of aviation

And it's out now in Early Access.

I'm not ashamed to admit that, several years back, I bought Annie Jacobsen's weighty history of Area 51 to read about aliens. In the end, ETs turned out to be pretty thin on the ground, but I learned a lot about the Lockheed A-12 instead, and it was far more interesting than I had expected. Lumbered with Oxcart, the most perversely inappropriate code name in the history of espionage (maybe that's just espionage for you), the A-12 was a child's drawing of a jet plane, sleek and deadly and romantic. It was a Cold War horror show, of course, but it was enlivened by cheeky quirks, such as its insane speed, and the fact that one of its engines was prone to cutting out when it was travelling dangerously fast. The solution to this was not to fix the engine that cut out, incidentally, but to simultaneously cut the other one out, too. That saved the A-12 pilots from a nasty spin, perhaps, but as fixes go, it must have felt like a work in progress.

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Sky Rogue, which has just turned up on Early Access, is a work in progress too, and it's also sleek, deadly and romantic. The spirit of the A-12 flies again across its peerless Sega skies, but the craft on offer have been painted jaunty reds and blues and oranges, and the spy-cams have been swapped out for a feisty range of unlockable weaponry. Sky Rogue is disorientatingly pretty, with its simple, effective geometry, its golden tracer fire, and its floating aircraft carriers. It handles like an absolute dream, a thing of swooping turns and thrumming accelerations. I have died so many times taking screenshots of a disconcertingly charismatic enemy bomber rather than unloading on it. Maybe the A-12's camera hasn't been left at home after all.

As the Rogue in the title suggests, this is a game about facing terrible odds, dying an awful lot, and then going back to the start each time. Your unlocks seem to remain intact, however - it's just the procedurally scrambled missions that recycle. I am terrible at these missions, and so I have only seen the same handful: take out a ground target, take out a couple of ground targets, take out a really big enemy plane, take out an enemy carrier. Once that's done, you race back to your own carrier and land before you've been shot to pieces. In a game of breezy style, the landing is the only disappointment. You just flop down out of the sky and come to a rest: your beautiful plane is suddenly an old Mazda with an automatic gearbox, and somebody has shifted it to Park.

That truly is just about the only disappointment so far, though. The planes are great, the weapons are defined by power, range, and their lock-on specifics, and I love the way each island you cruise over is made of simple jumbles of hexagons, as if you're eternally tasked with strafing the Giant's Causeway. There isn't much more to say about Sky Rogue at the moment, such is its immediacy and breezy delight, but that hardly matters. Just dive back in and take some more screenshots, I reckon?

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