Flight Control Review
Posted by James Newton
Up in the air
Already available on the iPhone, Flight Control puts you in one of the world’s most stressful jobs: air traffic controller. Charged with landing all flights safely, you have to plot a path for each incoming aircraft towards its designated landing zone, naturally making sure to avoid collisions. What begins as a straightforward exercise in drawing lines soon becomes an intense puzzler.
Using the bottom screen to display the airfield, you simply draw a line from the aircraft to the runway approach of the same colour. Once you’ve locked-in that path, the aircraft turns white and you can concentrate on another incoming flight, all the time making sure not to plot a collision course as one crash results in “Game Over.” Making this task a little easier is the way flights follow your stylus as you’re drawing, meaning you don’t have to finish a path to get that jumbo jet out of the way of the incoming air ambulance. It may not sound much but it makes a big difference to the ease with which you control the field.
For each flight you land, you score one point, with the aim on each field simply being to score more points than you did before. For a score-focused game, the scoring system itself is disappointingly thin: there are no bonuses for landing flights in quick succession or within a certain time of them appearing on screen, for example. Online leaderboards, present in the iPhone version, are sadly absent here, meaning it’s just you landing more planes than you did last time, turning the global challenge into a one-player show.
That said, there is a multiplayer option for the first time, though there’s no Download Play feature. You and a friend share flights on the same airfield, meaning you can pass incoming traffic over to your co-controller if you want them to land it or if you’d rather mess up their careful plan. It’s double the chaos of the single-player game and hugely enjoyable, but naturally doubles the price of entry to get the most of it, a bit of a kick in the teeth considering it already costs five times more than the iPhone version.
One other addition over its iPhone predecessor is the “Windy” level, which features a changing headwind forcing you to adapt flightpaths as different runways become too dangerous to approach. It becomes very difficult very quickly, so is only recommended to gamers with unbelievable skills and real-life air traffic controllers; regular gamers are probably better off sticking to the other courses, all of which have their own subtle differences making mastering one very different to mastering them all.
Presentation-wise, Flight Control is a simplistic but pretty piece of portable programming. The art style of the menu characters and interface is kitschy (in a good way) and, crucially, the in-game graphics are crystal clear and never get confusing. The audio is rather lacklustre, however, with a single tune from the menu playing once when you begin a game and then the remainder of the level playing in near-silence, with just a few sound effects for company. Undoubtedly this is a leftover from its appearance on iPhone as that version let you play your own tunes, but here it makes the experience fall a little flat.
There’s very little wrong with Flight Control but it does feel a little thin. The additions of a new airfield and two-player mode are very welcome, but given the game’s origins as an addictive single-player score attack game it’s a shame more wasn’t done to boost this aspect: the removal of leaderboards hurts the game immeasurably.
Without a friend to experience the multiplayer mode, Flight Control becomes a solo flight, learning the game’s hidden intricacies and bettering your own high score purely for your own satisfaction. If that's what you're in the market for, you'll find plenty of nail-biting "one more go" addiction here.