Flight Control

Flight Control is an action/strategy game by Melbourne developer and publisher Firemint.

The Game

The objective in Flight Control is deceptively simple – guide airplanes and helicopters to landing strips and helipads to increase your score. However, as gamers are well aware, simple rarely means easy, and Flight Control is an example of a game that offers significant challenge despite its insignificant learning curve. Add just the right amount of networking features and what you get is a goal all too familiar to us – beat other peoples’ high scores!

There is only one control in the game: point aircraft in the direction you want them to fly. This is accomplished by dragging a line from the plane in question to the desired direction. The system is very intuitive: you can give it a quick swipe to just reorient the craft, or you can keep your finger held down and drag a flight path around the map. Either way, the aircraft are selflessly obedient and will follow your orders, even to the death. Once two airplanes (or an airplane and a helicopter, or two helicopters) touch in any way, the game is over. Finally, points are scored by successfully landing the aircraft in pre-designated runways and helipads. There are a few rules and they all make sense; red planes can only land on the red runway, for instance.

That one paragraph sums up the entirety of the gameplay mechanics. The fun of the game comes from having to delegate orders to planes as they come in from the edges of the maps (there a few you can choose from, including an aircraft carrier, my favorite one). Like many arcade games that are built around preventing people from getting high scores, the game starts off very easy but as more aircraft come in, the difficulty ramps up exponentially. To keep your sanity in check the game automatically quicksaves if you press the Home button in the middle of a round. Nevertheless, it gets very hard very quickly. If you deign to check out the screenshots in this review, try not to laugh at my pathetic attempts at a high score.

Basing an iPhone game around getting a high score is, of course, useless without implementing the proper tools to allow players to compare and brag about their own scores. Like many, the developers of Flight Control have realized this, and so the game comes with a number of features that allows you to compare scores with others. You can check how you fare against every other Flight Control player in the world; specifically, which percentile you fall under. Apparently you can also link your score to Google Maps and see scores of people around you. I suppose having the highest score in town beats knowing you’re below average worldwide. There’s also Twitter integration, in case you feel like showing off to your e-friends outside the iPhone world.

Graphics

Flight Control has a presentable interface and clean, nice 2D graphics. I liked the developers dedication to the aesthetic they chose for the menus and such, and I was never once confused by graphical elements during gameplay. Different types of planes and helicopters are easily distinguishable and the “route line” that’s drawn for you when you command a plane is very helpful. There are no guns and explosions to be seen in Flight Control, but there certainly don’t need to be, and what is here works.

Sound

There is just the right amount of sound in Flight Control. Thankfully the planes are quiet – can you imagine hearing the separate drones of 15 different airplanes on screen at once? Every command you make has audible feedback and the sound effect played when planes are landed is just the right kind of satisfying. The game even offers to turn off sound at the beginning, in case you’d rather play your own music. When the micromanagement finally becomes too much, and you find yourself failing to prevent an air traffic accident, the “crash” sound will surely make you wince the first couple of times.

There is no music during the game itself, but that would probably only serve to distract the player. I’d also like to stress that the brief menu music played when you start a new game fits the visual theme of the game perfectly.

Conclusion

Flight Control is a textbook example of how to strike just the right balance of simplicity and depth. It’s cliche, but this really is a game that can be enjoyed by all audiences. Casual players will enjoy trying to top themselves, and more hardcore gamers will be taking full advantage of the online features the game sports. See you on the leaderboards, air traffic controllers!

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