When you’re in a B-17 Flying Fortress hurtling along at ten thousand feet, the last thing you want to see is a swarm of German fighter planes circling you like sharks. When that happens, you’d better hope you’ve got a darn good Turret Commander (Out Now, $2.99) to rely on! True to its name, Kylinworks’ latest title straps you behind a heavy machine gun with a 360° view of very hostile skies. And while it might not hit you with the most positive first impression, it’ll definitely grow on you if you have a hankering for an endless first person shooter.
“We’re going to need a less jittery plane” was my first thought when I began tilting my iPod Touch to swivel the turret around, positively wrestling to keep enemies in the gun sight. Turret Commander’s default settings feel much too sensitive to me, but thankfully a trip to the config menu can set things straight. Even with sensitivity dropped to the minimum, however, there’s a definite qualitative difference between the tilt and virtual joystick interface options; you’ll definitely want to go with the latter for the smoothest experience. On the other hand, the little spasms that plague the tilt control here are kind of interesting if you take them in context — this is probably closer to what it must have felt like to wield a giant machine gun while getting jostled around in a high-altitude jet stream, and every downed enemy feels like a real accomplishment if you grit your teeth and bear with it. Normally I’d be asking for interface adjustments up the wazoo, but I think Kylinworks has inadvertently stumbled on a bit of genius in this department all things considered.
Turret Commander has a handful of finite missions that play like short tutorials; it’s clear the meat of the fun lies in Endless Mode, which can be played in five different settings that unlock as you level up in the game’s military rank system. As an endless game it gets a ton of mileage out of the “try, fail and upgrade, try again” model. Every attempt nets you coins that can be spent on upgrades to coolant efficiency, firing rate, and armor, or saved up for entirely new guns to play with. The beauty of Endless Mode is that it gives enemies a chance to show off some neat maneuvering skills that test your reaction ability and heat management. Moreover, it forces you to pay close attention to the blips on your in-game radar, as certain marked ships carry health pickups to supplement your limited armor repairs.
While Turret Commander proves a competent endless shooter and flight combat sim, it also underlines the ways in which its particular genre could advance. Enemy craft show off a fair few tricks if you survive long enough to witness them, but it’s still painfully obvious that the game relies more on sheer numbers than truly interesting AI to overwhelm the player. The setup is also a lonely one, with the player protecting a solitary B-17 at all times; if your performance affected the survival of fighter escorts and fellow bombers, now, that would make for a much more engrossing experience!
Turret Commander is a heavily mixed bag when it comes to aesthetic presentation. The complete lack of music in-game makes me scrunch up my nose just as it did in Kylinworks’ previous title, Roblade, and it’s rather disheartening since the main menu greets the player with a very compelling military flourish. On the other hand, the lack of music gives sound effects a chance to provide clear audio cues that back up the radar when enemies have come within firing distance. The visuals are sparse by the very nature of the game’s setting, and yet, when enemies manage to close in, it’s clear some tender love and care went into all the modeling. The all-important heat management aspect is excellently reinforced by glowing gun barrels, and cloud cover does a great job of fiddling with your aim in advanced mission settings.
iFanzine Verdict: The need for drastic sensitivity adjustment gets this flight off to a rough start, but Turret Commander makes a worthy showing for a World War II-era flight combat sim as long as you’re into the idea enough to stick with it for a while. If you love first person shooters and endless games equally, this is a challenge worthy of your consideration.