iPhone games are big business. The only problem is that most of them are rubbish – with the notable exception of Flight Control.
Tailored absolutely perfectly for the iPhone/iPod Touch, Flight Control is a mini strategy game based around having to land aeroplanes safely at an airport. As you would expect, play begins gently with a couple of fairly slow and friendly planes flying in but soon descends into complete panic with multiple aircraft of varying types, speeds and runway requirements demanding your instant and dextrous attetention. Yellow planes need to land on the yellow runway. Blue helicopters need to land on the blue helipad. Red passenger jets need to land on the main runway but the big jumbos fly much faster than the others.
The game’s success is only partially due to its fun, simple and challenging concept. Many other iPhone games are good in concept, after all. Flight Control‘s genius is its total embracing of the iPhone’s quirky and unique nature. There are no rubbish on-screen buttons to press (other than a handy pause icon) and there are no frustrating over/under-sensitive tilt requirements as with Monkey Ball. It’s all done through the touch screen, drawing flight paths for the planes using your finger. It’s an amazingly intuitive system whereby you press on the plane you want to control, then draw a line from it to the runway, laying down whatever route you wish. Do it once and you’ve grasped the game’s entire control complexity, leaving only the challenge of the gameplay itself. It’s instantly tactile and easy to comprehend – we’ve been pointing at stuff using our fingers all our lives, after all.
All this is backed up with some simple but very effective artwork and nerve-wracking collision warning sounds. Other than a jolly title menu piece there’s no music to speak of, which is a shame, as a gradually building score that adjusted with the number of planes on-screen would have been fun. You can, of course, simply play your own music if you wish. A nifty extra feature is an online scoreboard which compares your best achievement with other people in the local area. Currently I’m somewhere near the bottom of the Norwich listings…
Flight Control completes bypasses the short lifespan of many iPhone games, which all too often are intriguing from a technical and gimmicky point of view but rather limited or frustrating as actual games. It’s not just the most fun I’ve had with an iPhone, it’s also one of the best games I’ve played this year.