AU Review--Flight Control continues to be a charmer on the iPhone for good reason. The mix of simple game mechanics, eye-catching aesthetics, and a tongue-in-cheek tone makes this game a perfect example of good, addictive fun. Fans of the iPhone version will not be disappointed by Flight Control HD (AU$8.45 or 4.99 Euros via the PlayStation Network), the new incarnation (read: not port) for the PlayStation 3 with 3D and PlayStation Move support. Married with the motion-control device and a big screen, directing incoming planes to color-matched runways becomes an even more effortless and immersive experience, making Flight Control HD more exciting than ever.
Air traffic control isn't exactly the sexiest thing around, but Flight Control HD makes it exciting. Despite the addition of some new maps, Flight Control veterans will feel right at home: the gameplay and features remain identical to previous incarnations of Flight Control. You must guide incoming planes to their correct runways by drawing a flight path that matches blue planes with blue runways, red planes with red runways, helicopters to helipads, and so on. The idea is to land all of the planes safely without any collisions--once a collision happens, the game ends. There are nine different airfield maps in Flight Control HD, which range in difficulty from small to supersized. As with past versions of the game, the difficulty depends on how many planes come in at the same time. For example, the pace is more relaxed on an easier map, meaning you can comfortably land two or three planes before having to look to the skies for the next wave. On a harder map, however, it's not uncommon to find yourself having to land 15 planes on only four runways--and that's only a few seconds after you've started.
The maps offer plenty of variety. Depending on the map you choose, there are a number of things that affect the way you play. For example, some planes fly faster than others, meaning you have to alter the flight path of some of your planes if another plane flies into the airspace going double the speed. Some runways also open and close depending on weather conditions, and some maps include emergency planes that have a set flight path that cannot be controlled. Paying attention, reorganizing, and redirecting midgame is the best way to succeed, but, as is usually the case with Flight Control, things often end in chaos. There's also the pressure of having more than five planes flying in at the same time, which is guaranteed to happen on every single map at some point or another. While it may not sound like it, there is nothing frustrating or annoying about any of this--the more in control and focused you are, the more planes you are going to land. Thinking laterally and creatively in high-pressure situations is fun, and even when you get it wrong, you still can't help but laugh at the sheer lunacy as you try to navigate the artwork of tightly woven dotted lines in front of you.
While the gameplay itself is as much fun as ever, the addition of Move support certainly makes Flight Control HD easier to play. All you have to do is point the Move controller at the screen, highlight the plane you want by pressing and holding the Move or T button, and literally draw your chosen flight path before releasing the button. While using your finger to do the same on an iPhone screen was intuitive, a larger screen and an auto-lock system once you get close enough to a runway make things smoother. However, things aren't always consistent. While the Move controller glides like a pencil on paper and allows you to draw tight corners and complicated swirly bits in your flight path, the inaccuracy of most people's line-drawing skills means there will be times when you will have to re-draw paths, particularly when there are a lot of planes to land and not enough time to pay attention to careful penmanship. Changing the flight path of a plane is easy enough: simply re-highlight the plane and draw a new path.
The game also allows you to use a standard controller, but this is not as effective and can sometimes becomes trying. The X button is used to select planes, while the left analog stick is used to draw their paths. This is not hard to do, but switching from plane to plane is a little slower than with the Move, and when you have numerous planes flying in from every direction, all you want to do is slam the controller down and pick up the Move. It just feels better.
One of the biggest joys of playing Flight Control HD is the childlike glow cast over everything, such as the brightly colored toy planes, squeaky-clean design principles, and the lullaby-like jazz melodies. All these elements add charm and elegance in a celebration of aviation's golden era. It helps that the game also looks good in 1080p, particularly the larger-sized airfields and the day-and-night map, which makes you feel like you really are watching over a living and breathing metropolis. Players with 3D-capable televisions can also play the game in 3D, but the differences are slight: everything stands out a little bit more, but the experience remains the same.
The game suffers a little when it comes to multiplayer options. The lack of online multiplayer is somewhat of a letdown, and the local four-player drop-in/drop-out multiplayer doesn't exactly prove a rewarding experience. Unless you are privy to a party of extremely coordinated friends who are good at taking orders, the cooperative play quickly deteriorates into total and complete anarchy. Playing with two people is enough; playing with four people severely detracts from the experience. Succeeding at this game requires calm and efficient calculation; yelling at three other people to stick to their side of the screen or their designated plane color tends to break the focus somewhat. If you're a high score junkie, the solo mode's addictive nature will no doubt keep you coming back.
With its new maps, Move support and timeless gameplay, Flight Control HD is a perfect fit for the big screen. You can spend hours landing planes on new runways, trying to beat your own high score and bringing a friend or two along for the ride. Even with its slight control issues, this game is carried by its addictive charm--no matter how you like to play, there's just something about landing planes on coloured runways that never seems to get old.