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Developer: Nimbly Games
Publisher: Nimbly Games
Genre: Action > Shooter
Released: May 14, 2009
Players: 20

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Altitude is a multiplayer 2D side scrolling WWII-esque dogfighting plane game. That's one heck of a sentence to describe the genre, but there you have it. You take your piloting skills against other live players or bots in either a free for all or team base defense modes. From there you select one of 5 different planes and equip it with a variety of special abilities and begin the general mayhem.

However, when you start Altitude you have only 1 ship and 1 set of abilities. The others are gained as you gain levels. This eases the players into all the various features and abilities of each plane, as well as provides some strong motivation to keep playing.

The combat action in Altitude is fast and furious and deceptively complicated, though very easy to pick up. There are a variety of important things you need to be aware of as you fly, which makes for a very engaging piloting experience. First, be aware of your speed. You have control over your engine power, but speed is also reduced by climbing and increased by diving. Going fast may be great for surprises, but second you have to be aware of the surrounding terrain. Altitude isn't an open sky kind of game, most of the maps don't make any realistic sense at all, but each ship has a turning speed and you may find yourself speeding to certain doom by diving quickly. There are also powerups around the map, and knowing where they are and getting to them before the enemy is essential to a high kill/death ratio. Third, each plane has energy. Energy is used to power afterburners and weapons. Monitoring energy and firing in bursts is a skill that takes quite a bit of time to hone. Finally, each plane has health. Bigger, slower, planes have more health.

Combat is very satisfying at first in Altitude. Playing around with the various ship designs to find your favorite is a lot of fun as well. Most people play the team base defense mode, and so that is where I spent most of my time; especially since free for all mode becomes very silly in a small map with a ton of players (Most maps have 14 player limits). This is where Altitude goes wrong. Fundamentally the game is fun, but base combat mode has some serious flaws that begin to show themselves after a while of play.

Team balance is the big problem. Teams are random for the most part, which means very rarely do you have two teams of equal skill. The reason for this is there is a huge gap between someone of mediocre skill and someone of superior skill. As someone who was MVP for 5 games straight last night I can say this is not because I am tired of getting killed.

Finally, when teams ARE balanced it seems to come down to luck rather than strategy on who wins. Because the action is so fast and the respawn times so short, it becomes a game of luckily slipping past the defenses to bomb the base. Whoever happens to time it just right, which I admit some skill does make it more likely, hits the base. There's rarely any chat in the game and therefore no planning whatsoever.

So once in a while you will see a game where skill and planning makes the difference between victory and defeat and it is very satisfying when it does, but most of the time you'll be left thinking "What went wrong or what went right?" rather than celebrating the execution.

I love the cell shaded art style of Altitude. It fits the setting extremely well and gives it a real sense of cartoon violence that is appropriate for all ages. The maps are also fairly pretty, but everything seems to come together in Altitude to make a great graphical experience.

The sound effects are well done. Sure it's little more than engine sounds and gunfire, but there are a lot of different sounds and they're all very distinct. Often times you can know what planes lie ahead of you by listening to the sound of the various guns.

I love the idea of 2D plane combat in this style. However, once again I find both game modes came down to luck over skill, despite being one of the better players in the game.

At the price of $20.00 this game really had me hooked for about a week as I unlocked the various planes and learned to play better. Once I reached my current level of skill and had unlocked almost all the planes I tapered off how many hours I would spend in Altitude every day. With more content promised the value could increase, but as it stands it's worth its price but not overly so.

Team fortress style plane combat!? Heck yes! The game comes together great for the most part and the concept of this type of game I back 100%. I want more modes, more strategy, maybe even more rpg type things!

Altitude is fun! Don't get me wrong about my gripes on strategy, the general mayhem of it all is very amusing. Altitude takes a lot of complex variables and makes them incredibly easy to play, turning what could have been a bulky combat sim into a fast paced arcade shooter that is extremely satisfying.

The free demo gives you access to two ships with set layouts. This kind of game won't appeal to everyone, but Altitude is worth the time to try for anyone who considers themselves a combat or arcade style gamer. You're certain to get more than 60 minutes of fun out of this game, which is more than you can say for most free trials!

By: Joseph Lieberman
Posted: Thursday May 14, 2009
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