iPad Game Review: Flight Control HD Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Flight Control HD is a highly-polished game from Firemint where you must trace the path of converging aircraft in order to land them safely. The iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad's excellent touch-screens lend themselves perfectly to this type of game, resulting in a deluge (well, if not an actual deluge, at least enough to qualify for their own category) of these "line-drawing" games. However in this case, Flight Control HD, just as it's younger brother Flight Control for the iPhone/iPod Touch, is the game that lesser line-drawing games are jealous of, and secretly look up to.
The premise of this game is so simple that even people who have never played a video game in their lives can jump right in. Once the game starts, aircraft start to slowly appear from the edge of the screen. These aircraft are color-coded to match their destinations; a variety of landing strips scattered throughout the map. All you must do is place your finger on the aircraft and trace a line to its destination. The game starts off relaxed and easy, with a catchy tune playing in the background. As the difficulty slowly ramps up, you are faced with an ever increasing fleet of aircraft, all apparently piloted by chimps because they will take no evasive action, whatsoever. Each plane will cheerfully fly straight up the tailpipe of any other plane on the screen, making your job of air traffic controller ultimately hectic and challenging. This is not to say that Flight Control HD is a twitchy game that is best played after drinking a case of Red Bull. While fast reflexes will certainly help, the successful player is the one who keeps a cool head, plans ahead, and pays attention to the screen. Somehow, this game manages to maintain its relaxed feel, even while your fingers are flying over the screen. No mean feat!
While Flight Control HD excels in single-player mode, where it really shines is in its multiplayer component. As with the iPhone/iPod Touch version, there is the option to play competitively with another player on a different device via a wireless network. However, the iPad?s large screen lends itself perfectly to a 2-person game on a single device. Several options are available, including split-screen and cooperative play on a single map. The latter option is the one that I have had the most fun with. My 8-year old son and I have been late for dinner more than once because we were engrossed in a cooperative game, laughing as our planes narrowly missed each other, time and time again.
The graphics of Flight Control HD are not flashy. They are all hand-drawn 2D sprites, but they are bright, crisp, colorful, and most importantly match the game perfectly. This is a game by the same studio that cranked out Real Racing so they are no strangers to eye-popping graphics. In Flight Control HD, though, they seem to have gone out of their way to exercised restraint; opting instead for a pleasant and relaxing visual style.
When it comes to game sounds, the designers seem to have also decided that less is more, because all sounds are very subtle and unobtrusive. This type of game lends itself perfectly to kicking back in a comfortable chair and listening to music. Fortunately, Firemint realized this and incorporated the ability to play music from your own library. I must confess, however, that I usually opt to hear the game's distinctive theme song instead, followed by wonderful, peaceful silence. Somehow, it just fits the game.
Flight Control HD may be the perfect iPad game. A simple game mechanic wrapped in a highly polished interface, and then tweaked for maximum fun with minimum stress. If line-drawing games are for you and you don't already own this, shame on you. If you've never heard of line-drawing games and are curious, start here. If you think you don't like line-drawing games, think again, because this one might just bring you around.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - Clean, crisp, bright, and perfectly suited for the game Sound: - 5 - Simple and understated. iTunes Music integration is a nice touch Controls: - 5 - Intuitive controls with an excellent use of the touch screen. Gameplay: - 5 - Hours of fun. Easy to learn, yet impossible to beat.
Playing Hints and Tips:
-If you're new to this type of game, start with the tutorial. The shortest route is rarely the safest route when navigating these unfriendly skies.
-Don't forget to draw an extra loop or two in order to time your landings appropriately. The planes turn white when they have been directed to their proper destination.