Flight Control, a $1 app from Firemint, wouldn’t exist without the iPhone. The unique gameplay is perfectly suited to the device, and I am hopelessly addicted. When I have a spare minute or two, Flight Control is the game I play. Go spend the buck and start playing—you can read my review later while nodding vigorously in agreement.
In Flight Control, you assume the role of air traffic controller. As an ever-increasing number of planes approach the runways, your job is to guide them all in for safe landings—ensuring that they stay out of each other’s way. Planes travel at different speeds, and each is color-coded to match the runway it must land on. You tap on approaching planes and drag a flight path for them to follow for landing. That flight path remains visible, and the plane turns white to indicate that you’ve successfully drawn a path to its runway.
But careful! More planes keep on coming. And helicopters—oh, those painfully slow-traveling helicopters—keep on coming, too. As more aircraft begin filling up the screen, you need to remain hyper-vigilant to make sure that they don’t collide. Luckily, you’re allowed to re-re-route planes as many times as you need, which you’ll find yourself doing repeatedly to avoid airborne pile-ups just shy of the runway. As you progress, this process gets increasingly manic… and not surprisingly, it’s tons of fun, too.
After a recent update, Flight Control now sports three levels (or “airfields”)—the original simple airstrip, a beachside resort with water landings, and the most hellish of all, an aircraft carrier. The military planes that show up on that last level fly faster than other aircraft in the game, and there’s not a lot of room to maneuver everybody onto the relatively tight ship. And when the tides cause the carrier to move a bit—good luck adjusting all those landing approaches in time! The other two levels can start out a bit slow. Flight Control wisely includes a fast-forward button that speeds up the action, which you can toggle at any time as you play.
Each time you successfully land a plane, Flight Control displays a cheery victory message, catered to the airfield you’re playing (“Commendable!” or “Outstanding” on the aircraft carrier; “Aloha” or “Bienvenue” at the resort; or “Good show!” and “Splendid!” on the original level. These assorted messages, and the deliciously retro menu and Game Over screens (complete with polite, congratulatory flight attendants), add a nice dose of personality to the game.
Of course, Flight Control saves your high scores (which translate to the number of planes you’ve successfully landed) on each level, and you can see how you measure up with online scoreboards. And since the game smartly saves your progress when you’re interrupted, you can achieve your insane high scores over the course of a few days, with breaks to eat and sleep.
My sole complaint is that Flight Control prompts me about whether I’d rather hear its soundtrack or listen to my own music each time I launch the game; I’d prefer a setting I could set and forget.
The game takes seconds to learn, and mere minutes to play. That makes it even more impressive that I’ve spent hours guiding planes in Flight Control and can’t wait to go play again.
Flight Control is compatible with any iPhone or iPod touch running the iPhone 2.x software update.
[ Lex Friedman is a frequent Macworld.com contributor.]