The lingering question I have after playing Dogfight: A Sausage Bomber Story is ‘why sausages?’. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the simple shoot ’em up joys, the four-player focus, and the array of weapons to pick from. But the sausage stuff? Honestly, I couldn’t tell you what it’s doing there.
There’s a bit of Advance Wars to the presentation, which is appropriate in the week that Advance Wars 1+2 Re:Boot Camp is launching. Everything is delivered in bold, primary colours and thick 2D sprites. In Dogfight: A Sausage Bomber Story you play your choice of hero and warplane for the Sausage Bomber Corps. Your task? To protect the nation of Relishtopia from the Killzone-like invaders called Vega Nation.
I was well up for a sausage-themed shooter. I expected the screen to be full of Bacon Bombers and Salad Spinners, as we fired wurst out of bap guns. But while every character and region has a food-related pun attached, there’s very little in the main game that jumps on the same theme. Sure, the odd weapon looks like sausages, but most of the time, Dogfight: A Sausage Bomber Story opts to be generic. It’s a shame, mostly because they had a big sausage-shaped key to solving it.
It’s our big issue with Dogfight: A Sausage Bomber Story, and well worth getting out of the way early: it’s curiously unremarkable when it comes to what you fight and where. We are used to the Giger-like nightmares of Gynoug or the fantastical warships of Gunbird. To come to a shooter called Dogfight: A Sausage Bomber Story and only fight bosses that are called Mega Train and Mega Helicopter is something of a disappointment.
But with that out of the way, we can get to the good stuff, and Dogfight: A Sausage Bomber Story has it aplenty. For one, it’s incredibly welcoming. This is a shooter that accommodates four couch co-op players on the screen at once, and it doesn’t feel like noisy carnage. That’s rare for the genre, and it makes for great fun. The chase for power-ups is real when you have mates helping but also not helping.
That welcoming nature stretches to plenty of difficulty and accessibility options. You don’t have to be a sweaty speedrunner to see all of Dogfight: A Sausage Bomber Story’s content, as you can dial up the lives. But, equally, there is a fully featured speedrun mode with leaderboards and times split by level, so you can approach it that way too.
Picking your loadout is impressive, and shooter fans will feel like kids in sweet shops. There are dozens of weapons, unlocked through a multitude of methods. Playing through on different difficulty levels, grabbing five stars on each level and other feats will nab you these weapons, and you can slot them into one of two slots on your ship. And yep, some are sausage themed: we will give Dogfight: A Sausage Bomber Story that one.
While there aren’t a huge number or levels – there’s an achievement for completing the game in under half-an-hour for a reason – there is an impetus to playing multiple times, thanks to the achievements, the weapons and the Cave-like thrill of blowing things up at increasing speeds. Dogfight: A Sausage Bomber Story is a well made, simple shooter that invites replay.
Your little sausage bomber has two weapons to call from at a given time, and you’re probably best choosing one for air and one for ground assaults. Later weapons can shoot in an array of directions and those become useful too, as enemies don’t only come from the front. Indicators warn you when ships come from above and behind, and you can tap a shoulder button to swivel round and fire.
It’s a taste thing, but I wasn’t a huge fan of this pivoting gameplay. I prefer the forward momentum of an R-Type where you can be reassured that everything is coming at you from the front. When you have to reposition yourself and manage the back, it feels like you’re two buttons away from killing everything, rather than one, and the game can ambush you. But you may find it to be less of a problem.
Everything else is a bit chef’s kiss. There are plenty of enemy sprites to crunch through, from hovering mechs to power-up dropping planes to giant blimps. They all have that Colourful Killzone aesthetic, and you will soon learn which are worth taking out first. Nothing is wildly out-there in terms of what they expect from you, but there are more than enough enemy types to act as a buffet before the big boss.
We’ve already stuck a knife in the themes of the bosses – honestly, who thought working through the Usborne Book of Vehicles one at a time was exciting enough? – but as encounters they’re cracking. That’s thanks to the modular approach to them: every part of the Mega structure has its own attack and life bar. That means you can target the weapons that are hurting you the most and incapacitate them. It leaves you with the great feeling of whittling a boss down to its most pathetic guns, then picking them off. The bosses don’t necessarily make that easy, moving and concealing what they can, but they remain a highlight.
It’s enough to make you forget the sausage-garnish, left on the counter and forgotten. Because what is important is that Dogfight: A Sausage Bomber Story is a tight shoot ’em up. Not only that, but it’s packing four-player couch co-op and an incredible number of weapons. Dogfight: A Sausage Bomber Story, against the odds, is a game to relish.
- Four-player co-op
- Listless weapons to collect
- Accessibility and speed-run features
- Sausage theming is mostly forgotten
- Pivoting gameplay never feels right
- Would have taken more levels
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to – Hound Picked Games
- Formats – Xbox Series X|S, PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC
- Version reviewed – Xbox Series X
- Release date – 13 April 2023
- Launch price from – £14.99