Aero Porter Review
Posted by Philip J Reed
A game with a lot of baggage
We at Nintendo Life absolutely loved Airport Mania: First Flight. Its appeal was rooted largely in the simplicity of its tasks, and the larger effects they all seemed to have. Airport Mania took the entire, massive scope of airport management and narrowed it to a tiny focus: directing and maintaining planes. There was, of course, always a sense that much more was at play than what you were seeing, but that was part of its charm; it took a small task, and made it feel satisfying and important.
Aero Porter, the second game from the Guild01 compilation to make its way west, attempts something quite similar: it's an airport management simulation that boils its experience down to one simple task. In this case, that task is baggage handling.
Similarly to Airport Mania, you use colours as your guide, matching red bags to the red belt, blue bags to the blue belt, and so on. Every bag is deposited in the airport itself and works its way down to you, where it's your job to make sure it gets loaded onto the correct flight. Each luggage belt is disc-shaped, and they are arranged in a sort of tower formation. The R button lowers each belt so that you can move luggage one level below, and the L button allows you to raise them back up a level. At its core, this is what you do throughout the entire game. If anyone tells you that it doesn't get any more complicated than this, though, you can rest assured they didn't make it very far.
As you reach regular milestones — such as processing a certain number of passengers, or providing excellent service to a VIP — your supervisor will surprise you with "gifts". That's a term we use quite loosely though, because every gift he gives you brings along with it a host of new tasks to juggle. For instance, he'll install a lighting system that allows you to switch the lights on and off, but leaving them on drains fuel and turning them off makes it more difficult to see colours. Later he'll add a mechanism that prevents luggage from falling onto the belts until you're ready, but it only holds five pieces before spilling them onto the top belt, so in exchange for a short break from baggage management, you may later have to deal with processing a very messy pile all at once.
In addition to managing this baggage you also have to manage fuel levels for the airport; use too much and operations will slow and then shut down. You can purchase more fuel which then has to be dropped belt by belt to the generator, but that costs money...money which you earn by correctly and quickly loading bags. You're also in charge of airport security, identifying and disposing of suspicious packages as they arrive. Sometimes you can tell by sight which packages are suspicious, but other times you'll have to blow into the microphone to see which bag doesn't shake. It's a lot to manage, and that's just the tip of the iceberg, as you'll also be looking after everything from emergency vehicles to the President of the United States; you're almost never dealing with only one special case at a time.
It quickly gets difficult to manage the regular baggage in the face of escalating incidents, but it's important that you do your best. If no baggage is loaded onto a plane by the time it's scheduled for departure, the flight will be cancelled and you'll face a hefty fine. On the other hand, if you can chain departing flights together you earn bonuses, and can even upgrade your airport to handle more customers.
It's an extremely challenging game, made more so by the simplicity of the controls. When all you can do is raise and lower belts, you learn fast that everything you do counts, and you can't make up for lost time easily. While you can increase the speed of your belts, this drains fuel even more quickly, which means you're only exchanging one problem for another.
Aero Porter is definitely a well-made game, but it's pretty economical in its presentation. Visually it's almost as simple as you can get, but that's a good thing as it's difficult enough to keep things straight as it is. There is no 3D effect, but you'd be too busy to notice one anyway. In terms of sound there's almost no music at all, with the game opting instead for airport ambiance that would make Brian Eno proud. There is a StreetPass feature that lets you send a plane to the airports of those you pass on the street — once you unlock it, of course — and processing received planes earns you even more money. It's a nice bonus, but certainly not necessary.
Relatively early on the game sets you free, telling you openly that your only goal from here on out is to keep playing, attempting to beat your personal best. By design, then, Aero Porter lacks urgency. You don't need to play it, and the game doesn't mind if you don't turn up for work the next day. It's entirely up to you, and only you will know how much you'd enjoy airport management when it's reduced to the basic task of shuttling baggage from one belt to another. If you think you'd enjoy it, Aero Porter leaves very little room for improvement. If you think that sounds dull, Aero Porter makes no effort to change your mind. After all, a job is a job, and it doesn't have any time to convince you to give it a shot; passengers are waiting for their bags, and they're getting impatient.
If you aren't afraid of an experience that starts out frantic and only escalates from there Aero Porter can be a lot of fun, but if you're easily frustrated this won't be a very pleasant experience for you. The simple presentation and intuitive controls make it easy to concentrate on the action at hand, which is good, but that action consists of shuffling bags from one place to another, which may not thrill everybody. While this might not be a first class experience, upgrades and StreetPass features keep this from being an economy flight.