Flight Control Review
Posted by Peter Willington
The secret of Flight Control's incredible success on iOS devices was that it was perfectly suited to the platform it launched on. It very simply transposed the immediacy of direct touch controls that iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch benefit from within a game that is superficially nothing more than drawing lines on a screen. Yet the key phrase you should take from this is "direct touch controls", as the DSiWare, Android and Steam releases succeeded in this point, using their own stylus, touch and mouse pointer inputs to great effect.
With the inevitability we've come to expect of the WiiWare service, the successful mobile title has come to Nintendo's home console through its download service, sporting the Wii Remote as the guiding hand for the wholly useless aeroplane pilots of Flight Control's colourful top-down world. Tasked with landing a multitude of air based vehicles on five air strips — including the Australian outback, an aircraft carrier and an island paradise — players must guide them by selecting each one individually and tracing a path. Each craft is flying at the same altitude and will therefore crash into one another if they inhabit the same space, taking you immediately to the Game Over screen.
Each vehicle features different properties; reddish-pink jumbos move quicker than their smaller, similarly coloured counterparts; blue helicopters practically crawl to the specially designated helipad landing areas, and the smallest planes, marked in yellow, must touch down on a separate runway from their bigger aeronautical brothers. As if this weren't enough to bear in mind, there are also priority flights over which you have no control and wind elements that can affect where and when a plane must be brought to rest. Systematically Flight Control is deep, a rewarding challenge for those willing to put in the time to learn its intricacies.
Play time weighs in at around five or ten minute chunks before things become too hectic and only the very best players will cope with the number of objects on-screen requiring your immediate attention. Though it's questionable whether this short-bursts-of-play format works in the home as well as it does on mobile devices, Flight Control loads up quickly from the Wii Channel menu and is optimised to get you into games quickly.
While you're at home you can take advantage of the couch co-op with friends, each with a pointer to call their own, collaborating on the same map to bring those birds in. Unfortunately the main thrust of the title's play is organisation, so the inclusion of others just brings more to manage and more chaos in the skies, limiting its appeal to a distraction.
Let's get back to that first issue of "control" though. Where other versions — with the exception of Flight Control HD on PlayStation Move — give you direct access to the surface on which you are making your mark, the Wii version is comparatively removed from the action, players pointing at the screen from the sofa. The action of placing a finger (or stylus) on a screen and dragging it is just so much faster and more accurate than manually aiming a disembodied hand symbol and creating a line between two points. Yet there seems to be no concession to this by developers Firemint, meaning that substantial high scores appear out of reach. When those high scores have no bearing outside of your own system — there is no online component to the WiiWare version — and every map is unlocked from the off, the compulsion to improve despite this fault begins to dwindle, as does the whole product's appeal.
Fundamentally Flight Control is strong, a fast-paced and surprisingly complex puzzle title with plenty of variety. The biggest issues come from the porting process and the additions implemented, namely that the multiplayer is mostly redundant and the pacing does not adapt to suit the decidedly different input method of the Wii. A lack of progression tracking undermines the desire to persist or overcome the controls, reducing this release to one that locks most of its true appeal away from the player behind cumbersome controls.