Thanks to the recent iPad 2 release, a bunch of iOS developers dropped their prices to entice the new flock of iPad owners to their wares. Not wanting to miss out on the fun, I snatched up Firemint's Flight Control HD while it was on sale for $0.99.
I had see Flight Control mentioned in several online "must have" apps list, but for some reason I never paid much attention to it. I think the title turned me off -- why would I want to spend money to play a game based on one of the most stressful careers in the world?? Eventually, the cutesy icon (and temporary price drop) was too much for me to resist. In Flight Control you have a top-down view of a few runways and helicopter pads. As airplanes and helicopters enter the screen, you have to "draw" the planes a flight path the correct color-coded runway. You also need to make sure none of your flight paths will cause planes to collide with one another or else the game is over.... and that's about it. It's amazingly simple but equally addictive. You start to recognize patterns that you can use to keep your different runway queues well organized and collision free -- for me, there's a huge rush watching an entire fleet of aircraft follow your paths to line up for tightly coupled landings. I'm still pretty green in the overall strategy, and unfortunately for my digital passengers, it doesn't take very long before before my ego is writing checks my body can't cash. Fortunately, the cartoony graphics and perky music take all the horror out of the reality of a mid-air collision. Rather than searching through burning wreckage for the black box, I just hit the "Retry" button and my conscience is at peace. The game comes with several maps with varying difficulties, as well as a "3D" map that works with the Red/Blue anaglyph glasses, but I didn't have a pair of glasses to test it. There are also multiplayer modes, but I wasn't able to try those out as well yet either.
The iPad (as well as iPod Touch and iPhone) make this game work where it could not before. The touchscreen is the perfect interface for this game. Standard Xbox and Playstation controllers wouldn't have the same level of control that you get from physically "drawing" the flight paths on the screen. It looks like Firemint is trying Flight Control on the PS3 using the "Playstation Move" motion control device, which sounds like it would be fun spin on the game, but I think it would still lack the precision you get with the iPad version.
Flight Control HD is another great example of how the iOS is creating new gaming experiences. It's probably even worth the standard price of $5 considering how much a movie rental costs now, but if your see it at $0.99, it's a must have. I haven't even explored all the different multiplayer modes, and I'm perfectly content with the single player game.