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Review: Flight Control

2:00 PM on 06.17.2009 // Brad Nicholson

Note to self: never play a game called Flight Control while at an airport and immediately before your own flight leaves. Sure, the game may be cute and light on violence, but watching planes collide is never fun when you’re about to hit the skies.

Other than jarring myself with Flight Control before stepping onto my own flight home after E3, I’ve had a great time with the title. But I’ll stop there because I don’t desire to spill the review beans before the break. Instead, I’ll talk about the game.

Flight Control, as you can imagine, is a game about flight control. You steer little planes to their specific landing strips by pointing and clicking. Sounds simple, but like Peggle, it has its own crazy charm.

Hit the break for the review.

Flight Control (iPhone)
Seller: ndWare Pty Ltd
Released: April 29, 2009
MSRP: $.99

Recently, I listened to a drunken comrade talk about how he believes word of mouth is the ultimate rating system for Apple’s cluttered App Store. The real gems, he told me, are only discovered by listening to pals talk about the game in that fabled excited-but-hushed gamer voice. In his estimation, no amount of stars or gloriously worded mini-reviews can propel the right games above the occasionally inglorious mess of the App Store. It’s only voice.

Flight Control is one of my recent discoveries that I like to tell my friend about.

It’s an addictive puzzle title with a dab of charm and the perfect mix of simplicity and complexity. It doesn’t stroke my gamer ego and doesn’t quench my occasional thirst for an intellection game. Instead, it fulfills desire to play a simple, intuitive game on my mobile device. Flight Control is all I can ask for, really.

At its core, the game is a point, click, and drag fest. The goal is to direct mini-place (there’s helicopters, too) to their class-specific landing strips. Basic.

You direct planes by clicking on them then dragging them in order to create the desired route to a landing. Routes aren’t set in stone; you have the ability to completely change what the plane is doing by clicking on it again.

The key to success is successfully queuing arrivals to the landing zones, thus avoiding plane-on-plane collisions -- a sweet mix of simplicity and complexity. A brain dead person or a retarded baby can plot routes, but it does require a special touch to create the right routes. As the game progresses, planes of all shapes, sizes, and speeds appear randomly around the borders of the small maps, forcing you to reevaluate what you’re plotting on the fly.

As you can imagine -- the screenshots may help you visualize -- things can get hectic in a hurry if you aren’t dropping planes off in their landing zones immediately. What I’ve been enjoying for some time now is how manageable this frantic plotting is. Flight Control is not Mega Man hard: it’s merely challenging.

Flight Control isn’t a game you’ll ogle for its visual splendor: the planes are bland and there’s hardly any detail. The game’s three maps are vibrant and designed wildly different from each other. Like the game’s action, the art is simple but oddly refreshing. I like it.

But there are a couple of things I don’t particularly enjoy. First, there isn’t any progression; you play one map until a plane crashes into another. Second, there aren’t enough maps; there are only three. But those are only quibbles. If you’re looking for a wicked cheap (it’s 99 cents currently), legitimately on-the-go iPhone title, Flight Control is it. The game’s simplistic yet complex nature, and its wonderful controls, should keep you busy for quite some time.

Score: 9 -- Superb (9s are a hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage to what is a supreme title.)

Brad Nicholson,
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