Time until Acrobatic Dog-Fight release!
Acrobatic Dog-Fight was released in 1984, but would be considered new and fresh even if it was released today. The basic goal of each level is to get to the end, but the way you get there is anything but a straight line. Your plane (which can go in any direction, pulling off loop-de-loops and such at will) has a constantly depleting fuel gauge, forcing you to do one of two things: you can shoot down other planes to refill some fuel, or you can jump out of your plane and try to hijack one from an enemy. You only have a couple of parachutes, though, so you have to be careful - if you miss your shot and don't have any left, you'll go splat. If you do have a parachute (which you can earn more of by shooting down a certain number of enemies from the same wave) you'll glide down and have to face various hazards on the road while you search for a new plane. It's refreshing how open-ended the game is laid out. Although your destination lies all the way to the right of the stage, you have free reign to go wherever you please. If you stay close to the ground you'll avoid enemies, but that also means that you'll be out of luck when you run out of fuel (which happens quickly, especially if you're using turbo). Or, you could go high and get into some seriously intense dog-fights, or even backtrack if you missed a wave of cool looking planes you want to hijack. Other decisions you have to make are based around the fuel gauge, which decreases extremely quickly. Do you focus on shooting other planes, or go the more risky route by trying to hijack? The former is usually the safe bet, but it's incredibly fun to try out all the new planes being thrown your way. You have to be careful, though, as hijacking different enemies produces different effects. While other planes are typically a safe bet, other enemies are sometimes not. For example, trying to hijack the flying pigs results in you either wasting a parachute or falling to your death, and UFO's zap you if you try to get on them. Though there isn't as much variety in the levels as I would like, there are constantly new enemies thrown at you, which are really the star of the show anyway. Through and through the action stays frantic and intense, with some opportunities for some really memorable moments. It's a perfect example of the easy to pick up, hard to master philosophy of game design. Newcomers can have a blast even when they're dying every twenty seconds, and it's an absolute blast trying to perfect your game. While I'm not usually into self-imposed challenges, it's super fun trying to finish a level without dying and keeping the same plane. Graphically, the game is astounding for 1984, and still serves the game nicely today. The colors are very bright and vivid, the cartoony art style is great, and everything moves at a brisk pace. The audio design don't fare as well, though - get ready for a lot of bleeps and bloops. One other thing to note is that, unlike so many games of the era, you don't have to start over at the beginning when you die. Instead, you start right back from where you left off. I can't express how delighted I was to find that out, because although it might be "hardcore", it simply sucks having to replay the beginning over and over again in other games. It might be a bit obscure, and it's not perfect, but as far as I'm concerned Acrobatic Dog-Fight is a classic and an absolute must-play.
Antonio Colangelo of Senago, Italy holds the official record for this game with 1,445,050 points on July 17, 1985.