Games of 2009: Flight Control

Top fun.

There is something of an irony in Eurogamer's technology editor drawing this particular game: there are no 3D visuals, it doesn't run on a state-of-the-art engine and you don't require cutting-edge technology to play it. And yet Firemint's Flight Control is a work of gaming genius that stands proud alongside the likes of Uncharted 2 and Assassin's Creed II as one of the best games of the year, and at 59p it's the cheapest too.

For those unaware of this iPhone classic, the gameplay is remarkably straightforward. Planes arrive on-screen travelling in random directions and it's your job to guide them into land, mapping a flight plan with what is perhaps the most brilliant use of the iPhone touch-screen interface to date. Touch a plane to take select it, then simply draw its approach to the right runway. Guide the fast planes to the main landing strip, direct the light aircraft to the smaller runways and point the helicopters to the helipad. Simple.

When the game begins, it is a vaguely curious exercise in simple plane management; oddly soothing and quite addictive. Graphics are cartoon-esque and minimalistic and there's a sense of sheer, unabashed, self-confident fun in the entire make-up of the game. Flight Control has a look and feel that will appeal to anyone, and I simply can't conceive of how this ultra-intuitive, superb control scheme can be improved.

The relaxed mood of an initial gameplay session soon begins to change as the game gets its hooks into you. After a couple of dozen successful landings, the traffic in the skies starts to build up significantly and it's then you realise that only with a combination of quick reflexes, immense forward-planning skills and insane risk-taking will you be able to rack up a decent high-score.

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You'll feel an immense feeling of satisfaction as multiple planes land within a hair's breadth of one another, you'll come up with ever-more complex holding patterns for the faster planes in order to guide the slower ones carefully through, and you'll develop a deep, psychotic rage towards the ultra-slow helicopters whose only purpose in-game is to get in the way.

Once you're into triple figures on the score charts, you will know that Flight Control has taken over your life. Whether you're challenging family members (my wife is annoyingly good at this), or you're pitting your skills against gamers on the leaderboard in your GPS vicinity (a very cunning use of the iPhone technology), Flight Control becomes that greatest of things: unputdownable.

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About the author

Richard Leadbetter

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry  |  digitalfoundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.

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