Top Gun Review—Highway to the Fun Zone, While It Lasts


Two things were incredibly popular in movies in the 1980s—Tom Cruise and a song on the soundtrack by Kenny Loggins. Top Gun, a movie about the U.S. Navy’s program for fighter pilots, combined both of these things. And now it’s back, not in POG form, but Mini form. It’s the second Tom Cruise game from Freeverse and Gameshastra, along with Days of Thunder. Like Days of Thunder, it originated on the iPhone.

Unlike Days of Thunder, which basically retells the story of the movie, Top Gun is a sequel to the movie. It’s set in the latter days of the Cold War, and you take the role of a hotshot fighter pilot who has just enrolled in the Top Gun school, now taught by the two main characters of the movie—Maverick and Iceman, played by Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, respectively. Maverick only vaguely resembles Mr. Cruise, but Iceman really does look like Val Kilmer of about 15 years ago, even more so than Val Kilmer does now (he has aged worse than I have).

Had to use my camera to get screens, sorry for the quality

Had to use my camera to get screens, sorry for the quality

At its heart, Top Gun is a rail shooter, though with some twists. “Highway to the Danger Zone” was how the Kenny Loggins song “Danger Zone” went, and strangely enough, that has been turned into the game’s core mechanic—though not as strange as if “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin (the other notable song on the soundtrack) had been used.

But while you are flying, certain portions of the screen (it’s divided up into a 3×3 grid) will flash “Danger Zone,” starting yellow, then orange, and then red. Your goal is to maneuver your airplane away from those zones before it’s too late and you take damage (from various things—enemy fire, terrain, etc.). While gimmicky, this is actually quite fun.

Your score also goes up depending on how long you were in the Danger Zone, though this doesn’t matter much as there is no high score table, only some medals that get unlocked. While you are dodging things, you generally also need to shoot down enemy planes and targets. You have your Vulcan cannon and missiles, which are not always available, but pack more of a punch. Some missions feature boss fights.

There’s a good variety of things to do in the missions as well. Some are training missions; some have you attack ground targets; some have you fly through difficult terrain, and so forth. Usually you fly an F-22 Raptor, but on some missions you fly something else, like a B-2. While the Navy doesn’t fly either plane, I guess they were more exciting than the Super Hornet, which is pretty much the only new combat plane the Navy has gotten since the movie came out.

Danger Zone in action. Sometimes it fills up the whole screen.

Danger Zone in action. Sometimes it fills up the whole screen.

The game consists of ten different missions. These are fairly long, so it’s not as bad as it sounds, though it seems as though the port is missing out on some extras of the iPhone version (a hidden volleyball game and being able to use Cole Trickle from Days of Thunder as the main character). Before and after each mission, you are treated to some bits of a storyline.

It mixes a plot about a war with the Soviet Union with references and jokes about the original movie. I laughed quite a bit, especially at the joke about hot blonde astrophysicists working for the Pentagon (like the love interest in the movie was. But that made no sense, given it’s the study of stars and such and has nothing to do with airplanes, like the writers of the movie screenplay seemed to think).

This is really the weakness of the game—the ten missions only probably last an hour or an hour and a half, and when you finish the last mission, it seemingly does so in mid-story. Not only is it rather jarring, but a plot point that had been building is not resolved. Apparently, there is a sequel in which this is resolved. This happened with another Mini, The Mystery of the Crystal Portal. It was only the first part of a two-part story, and there is no sign the sequel will come out.

Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, as '90s-era rappers

Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, as '90s-era rappers

Graphically, it somehow looks much better as a whole than it should if you just looked at the parts. The models are PlayStation 1-quality, and the textures are something a Dreamcast (or even N64 with RAM Pack) would laugh at, but somehow they look pretty good in action in most missions, I guess like how even PS1 games look good on the PSP if you don’t look too closely (probably wouldn’t look so good on a PS3). The frame rate is solid even when there is a lot of action.

The sound effects, on the other hand, are very good. Jet noises, explosions, missiles firing all sound dramatic, if not realistic. You also get a fairly in-depth soundtrack, including the song “Danger Zone.” Unfortunately, it’s not done by Mr. Loggins. Not even by Messina, but some cover band. It’s not terrible, but it’s just flat. Besides two songs actually from the movie’s soundtrack done by the cover band, there is a handful of songs by another band that really are terrible.

Lots of Danger Zoning going on

Lots of Danger Zoning going on

This is one of those cases where a fairly high-priced Mini is competing almost directly with full PSP titles that have been dropped in price (if only on UMD, not PSN) such as Ace Combat and After Burner. So, in that regard, it’s not a great value, especially as it’s really only half a game. Nor, strictly speaking, is it particularly original, being a port of an iPhone game lacking extras found in the iPhone version (yet priced higher here).

But, at the same time, it’s actually fun to play, and it made me laugh on more than one occasion. Ultimately, though, its short length, combined with a lack of replayability and an unfinished storyline make it feel more like a demo than a real game.


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6 Responses to “Top Gun Review—Highway to the Fun Zone, While It Lasts”
  1. JeremyR says:

    And like before, gameplay video

  2. Ofaliss says:

    It’s early and my brain hasn’t fully activated yet, so instead of incorporating it into a sentence, I’m just going to say it…


  3. JeremyR says:

    Strangely enough, the song “Danger Zone” was actually written by Giorgio Moroder, who pretty much is the father of Electronic Dance Music.

    Noticed it in the credits and it blew my mind.

  4. manobon says:

    I just saw the youtube gameplay vid- Man, the oncoming missile attack that looks like clip art really took me out of it. It looks like it could be fun, but After Burner (which is Much better looking and with really fun arcade on-rails action as well) is $10. Of course, you can play this on the PSP and PS3, but I don’t think I would (other sprite/flash-art based minis translate better to big screens).

  5. volcane says:

    Sounds fun – I’m going to get this game when it hits the UK PSN.

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