App of the Day: Jetset: A Game For Airports

Where's Willy?

One of the disadvantages of the App Store's ludicrously fast turnover is that great games can be missed in the rush. Take, for example, this manic satirical puzzle game that debuted way back in the dark and primitives days of 2009.

But wait. Satirical? Yep, Jetset is a game with a point to make, and is aimed at an audience likely to appreciate its jabs. This is a game about the lunacy of airport security, and the post-9/11 paranoia that has seen bizarre and intrusive restrictions implemented, lifted and implemented again at airports around the world.

That, by a happy coincidence, is also the driving gameplay mechanic. You're in charge of a security checkpoint and must clear people through as quickly as possible. Allow the line to reach the door and it's game over. Chances are, that won't happen. You're far more likely to fail because of the inexplicable changes to the security criteria you're trying to enforce.

1

Listen out for the airport announcements - they're funny and useful.

Things start deceptively slowly, with a group of passengers and no restrictions. You simply wave them through and earn a small multiplier for your negligible effort. Then the diktats start to pile up. Maybe hats are forbidden. Now you have to tap to remove any hats, either from the passenger themselves or from their luggage, which is opened in the bottom left of the screen.

Then haemorrhoid cream is banned. Then shoes. But suddenly hats are OK again, while cigarette lighters are banned, but now hats are banned again. As is bottled water. And bacon. But shoes are fine. For now.

The pace picks up horribly quickly, and you're only allowed to make five mistakes before it's game over. You'll burn through those pretty quickly. Let someone through with a banned item, or confiscate something that's allowed, and you're one step closer to failure.

2

The game does seem to have a worrying trouser fixation.

Part of what makes Jetset so addictively tricky is that it requires you to memorise a constantly shifting list of items, match it against both passenger and luggage, and move them on before the criteria change again. Some games require quick thinking, others fast reactions, yet more demand impeccable observation. Jetset requires all three, and gives you mere seconds to make your call.

It should be infuriating, but the fact that it remains fun has a lot to do with the surreal humour. Sending people through to their flight clad only in their underwear, because trousers and shirts have been deemed a security risk, is ridiculous enough to amuse even if it costs you the game.

Jetset is more than just a puzzle game, however, and adds an enjoyable meta-game to the proceedings for those who clock up Air Miles in real life. Using GPS, if the game detects you're at one of a hundred real-world airports, you'll unlock a unique souvenir item. This can then be sent to friends, who can view it in a special free snowglobe app. As an alternative to sending a "just landed" text, it's a cute idea.

Jetset is a curious app in many ways. As a game, it's somewhat limited and clearly geared to making you lose in order to get its point across. Yet that doesn't stop it being fun, and for those who find themselves stuck in the departure lounge for hours at a time, it may act as a helpful way to blow off steam. Until they ban iPhones, of course.

App of the Day highlights interesting games we're playing on the Android, iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms, including post-release updates. If you want to see a particular app featured, drop us a line or suggest it in the comments.

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