(WiiWare)

Game Review

Airport Mania: First Flight Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

First class, or terminal illness?

Air travel is well known for many things: overbooking, lost luggage, expensive food, cramped quarters and, most recently, a choice between having your crotch grabbed or letting airport security take naked pictures of you. It's not really the sort of experience that you'd expect to lend itself to a positive gaming experience, let alone one so adorably irresistible as Airport Mania: First Flight. And yet, it's arguably one of the best games on the entire service.

First Flight is the WiiWare port of 2008's Airport Mania, a PC game that was later released for the iPhone as well, but don't let that scare you! We at Nintendo Life know (probably better than anybody) of the heartache associated with dropping hard-earned Nintendo Points on lazy, poorly optimised ports, but Airport Mania: First Flight is more than just a sturdy port of a good game; it sets the gold standard that all future ports should strive to achieve.

For those who haven't played it before, First Flight is a game of resource management. You will be in charge of routing incoming and outgoing flights at a series of airports, each of which is more complex and busier than the last. At the game's core, you will be responsible for keeping runways clear and making sure the passengers aren't left waiting. This responsibility gradually compounds, until you find yourself juggling repairs, refueling, repainting and even in-flight movies in addition to simple runway management. Every time you master a concept in Airport Mania, the game is prepared to throw you a curveball, keeping the experience fresh and exciting, without ever feeling unfair or overwhelming. The pacing is absolutely perfect.

The adorable little planes appear in the sky one at a time, and you can select them in order to assign to them a runway for landing. From there, you'll have to pick a gate for passenger drop-off and pickup, and then direct them to another runway for takeoff. Easy, right? Well, we might have forgotten to mention that while you are servicing one cute little plane, several others have appeared in the sky as well, circling the airport, waiting to be guided in themselves, and they're gradually getting angrier. How you handle them determines how well you do in that particular stage, and a series of star-ranks and awards offer good incentive to go back and clear stages more efficiently, once you've honed your strategy.

The controls are intuitive and simple. The IR-pointer is both smooth and accurate, the A button does all of the selection/activation work, and B cancels whatever it was that you've told that particular plane to do next. It couldn't be simpler, which means that whenever things become frantic – and they will – you get to rely entirely upon strategy and problem solving, rather than having to wrestle with the controls, trying to remember what you need to press in order to accomplish something.

After each stage you will be given the chance to visit a shop, where you can spend whatever money you've earned thus far (the money in this game working both as currency and as a scoring system) to upgrade the airport, giving you more gates, different styles of planes, more room for layovers and so on, all of which contribute both to making things easier in one way and more complicated in another. Airport Mania: First Flight is a constant battle against the forces of spiralling responsibility, and we'd have it no other way.

Perhaps the nicest thing about this game is just how remarkably deep the experience manages to be, in spite of the decidedly simple approach. The core concepts are so simple that anybody can pick it up and work toward achieving some measure of success, but the addition of bonuses for chaining takeoffs, for matching colours of planes to similarly-coloured gates, for early departures and for giving extra attention to special planes – carrying anything from live organs for transplant to the President of the United States of America – means that the game will be appropriately challenging for every skill level of gamer.

The presentation may not be to everybody's liking, but its cartoonish visuals are both stylish and oddly soothing, which will come in handy when the skies start crowding and all of your runways are occupied. The music is equally lovely and, again, goes a long way toward keeping the proceedings from feeling too stressful.

At this point in the review, we would typically have a paragraph or two describing the game's faults but, in all honesty, we were unable to find any. The game was clearly built for single player action, but the multiplayer component doesn't seem tacked on, feeling like a worthwhile addition (it's essentially the same game, just with up to four cursors on screen directing the traffic). The game always stays one step ahead of you so that the strategy you used on stage three won't work as well on stage four and may not work at all on stage five, which means you'll never have any time to get bored. The moment you master one aspect of the game, there's another one just waiting to be introduced. And with eight groups of levels, each group containing anything up to 15 levels, there's enough here to keep you busy for a very long time.

Conclusion

Airport Mania: First Flight is absolutely everything a WiiWare game should be: easy to pick up, deceptively deep and urgently addictive. The presentation is adorable and the challenge ramps up at the perfect rate, leaving you neither impatient nor overwhelmed. For 500 Points it's an absolute steal, and you'd be foolish to let it pass you by.

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User Comments (42)

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#1

Philip_J_Reed said:

I know, you think I've been driven mad by all the...uh...questionable games I've been assigned in the past. But this one was (and is) a very pleasant shock.

To give you an idea: I work pretty late on weeknights, so when I'm assigned a game, I'll download it and just play it for a few minutes to get the hang of the concept and controls. Then, usually the next day, I'll set aside a few hours to really dive in and see what it's about.

With this game, I sat down to learn the controls...and didn't stop playing for about two hours. It's also the only game right now to have the honor of replacing New Vegas as something I actually choose to play, even after the review was written. :)

Easily one of my favorites on the service. If you already have another version of the game, I can see why you might pass...but if you don't, this is a must have.

CorbsAdmin

#2

Corbs said:

Doesn't seem like my cup of tea, but if Phil gave it a 9, it MUST be great. :) Great review poultry man.

Plus: Eyes on vehicles = win!

bluegray

#3

bluegray said:

But how is the multiplayer? I wanted to get it to play w/my girlfriend but have no idea how it fairs in that respect.

bro2dragons

#7

bro2dragons said:

gonna have to get me this. sounds pretty dang addicting, and the perfect time killer when there's nothing else to do, but i'm feeling too lazy to dive into a story-driven adventure. ;)

Lobster

#9

Lobster said:

This review was a big surprise for me, I didn't expect it to score high at all! Gotta admit, though, I love the art style. It reminds me of the old Humongous Entertainment games I used to play on the PC as a kid. Looks like this will be an eventual (but not an instant) download for me.

GabboStaff

#10

Gabbo said:

That's a fine airport-themed review Phil. But if you touch my junk you're goin' to jail!

Popyman

#11

Popyman said:

"At this point in the review, we would typically have a paragraph or two describing the game's faults but, in all honesty, we were unable to find any."

So...why did it get a 9 then? =P

I'm so getting this sometime, I had no clue it was only 500 points! I might wait until the next part of Sonic 4, that'd be a awesome way to spend a points card, I think.

Zach

#12

Zach said:

@Bluegray & @Caliko, a brief sentence has been added describing the multiplayer: it's essentially the same game, just with up to four cursors on screen directing the traffic.

shinesprite

#15

shinesprite said:

@Corbie You took the words right out of my mouth. This game may be great (and cute is a +), but its not a bargain, unless its what you want.

WiiLovePeace

#18

WiiLovePeace said:

Wow looks like fun :) Great review Corbie, I'll anxiously await its arrival on my side of the Pacific then :)

cyrus_zuo

#19

cyrus_zuo said:

I visit NL several times a day and have to say I had some trepidation about reading a review of my own game! I really enjoyed the review, specifically how it called out a lot of things that we spent time agonizing over, making sure we got them right. (The score is pretty dang nice too! )
No game is for everyone, but we tried to make AM have parts that anyone could enjoy. I hope others will too :).

Oh, and this interview about the game discusses multiplayer a little more for those who are interested.

http://nintendo-okie.com/2010/09/09/interview-russell-carroll-airport-mania/

DazzaAdmin

#20

Dazza said:

@cyrus_zuo congratulations on producing a great game! You must have almost had an heart-attack when you clicked the link to the review and saw "by Philip J Reed" at the top eh? :-p

Omega

#23

Omega said:

I would say the Genre is "Strategy" and not "Puzzle". Also there is one thing I always miss in reviews: Can you save your game after each mission? Or is it start from scratch every time?

Yasume

#26

Yasume said:

I wasn't expecting this at all. I might check it out when it hits EU. (IF it hits EU).

Alexneon

#27

Alexneon said:

Guys, guys, that 9 means that the reviewer enjoy the game, not that the game is SUPER AWESOME. this is for ppl that planing to buy it just for the score.

theblackdragonAdmin

#28

theblackdragon said:

@Alexneon: on the contrary -- because the reviewer enjoyed the game so much, I'd have to assume that he indeed thought it was SUPER AWESOME. as always, though, we do recommend searching out multiple reviews so that you're able to read through as many different viewpoints/opinions as possible before a purchase. :3

cyrus_zuo

#29

cyrus_zuo said:

@Amorous Badger - It's in lotcheck for Europe, so sometime soonish? (though lotcheck can be a rather long process)

@Omega - Each stage is made up of multiple levels and you can save after each level :).

EdEN

#31

EdEN said:

Poor Brutus, he gets to review soooooo many crappy games that when the first good one comes along he runs to the finish line and barely stops before a 10 hehehe. Thanks for the review. I'll pick it up next week since I've got some games to finish on DSiware and Wiiware first.

EdEN

#32

EdEN said:

Wait, is there going to be a DSiware version? Having the game on the go would be better for me.

chiwii

#33

chiwii said:

This game looks great! Thanks for the excellent review. I was planning to get a VC game with the 500 points I have, but I think I'll get this instead.

Sean_Aaron

#35

Sean_Aaron said:

You can put me down for a copy when it hits the UK shop. At long last my WiiWare fast is over!

Cipher

#37

Cipher said:

I actually have 500 Wii Points spare from when I bought Sonic 4, and I love this kind of game, so I'm seriously considering this.

JeanLuc_Vaycard

#38

JeanLuc_Vaycard said:

Cyrus I love the game and agree with this review. Super addictive and it feels like you guys got it just right. Loving this and i know I will come back from time to time.

WolfRamHeart

#40

WolfRamHeart said:

Chicken Brutus' review has convinced me to pick up this game but I'm not quite sure which version I should get. The DSiWare version is out now so I might just get that one instead since it is only 200 points.

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