Flight Control HD Review
Posted by James Newton
Please enjoy this refreshing puzzle game
Flight Control HD is as well-travelled as its hand-drawn flight crew, starting life on the iPhone and iPod Touch before making it across to DSiWare and iPad. Now it's available on PSN in Europe (read our interview with Firemint to discover why it's not coming to North America) and fully compatible with Move. Does it belong on the big screen or is it best in the palm of your hand?
Although the real life job of an air traffic controller is immeasurably complex, Flight Control couldn't be simpler, tasking you with landing aircraft on colour-coded runways or helipads, aiming to land as many as possible before a crash ends your game. Bringing in planes is as easy as drawing a route from the aircraft to the appropriately-coloured landing area: once the its path to the landing strip is set, it turns white and follows the line before touching down automatically, netting you one point. It begins as a sedate experience but soon becomes a succession of nail-biting near-misses in the pursuit of a higher score. It's classic arcade gaming with a new twist.
With the Move controller, guiding your planes in to land is intuitive and unerringly accurate: you simply highlight the plane with a cursor, hold T or the Move button and draw a path for it to follow, then release the button. The controller's more than capable of tight turns or smooth curves, making the design of intricate webs of flight paths over a built-up city just as intuitive and accurate as the game's early and more straightforward airfields. We encountered no problems with the accuracy of the detection even whilst sat far away from the TV, although the Eye camera should point directly at you for the best results.
If you don't have Move, you can still use a standard DualShock 3 or SIXAXIS controller to help guide your charges to safety, with the left analogue stick drawing paths for planes after selecting them with X. It's a perfectly decent scheme, albeit one that lacks the intuitive controls of Move, and drawing a path with the wand is simply more enjoyable than using an analogue stick. If you have both controllers, there's little need to consider picking up the DualShock, unless you want to try out the multiplayer mode, which can be played with up to four people using any combination of Move and DualShock pads.
Teaming up results in sheer airspace chaos, with each player trying to guide his or her own plane to the ground whilst avoiding each other's. It's supposed to be a collaborative and co-operative game, but it will often descend into farce and argument as one player insists on taking their plane on the longest route possible, intersecting everyone else's and forcing them to alter all their paths. It's genius; the manic moments of the single-player stages become multiplied and amplified to such an extent that managing 20 planes in solo mode becomes an almost appealing idea.
You won't see much in the way of eye candy in Flight Control, with a very clean graphical style that borders on the sparse. Tiny animations such as leaves blown from trees or waves lapping the shore are about as wild as the backgrounds get, although certain airfields boast individual animations such as variable weather patterns or floating cherry blossoms. The most exciting thing graphically-speaking is in the new Japanese Metropolis airfield with its day-to-night transitions, which look attractive but probably won't set your pulse racing. You won't be blown away by anything you see, but the seeming lack of detail helps to keep you focused; when playing one of the large-scale airfields you come to appreciate the lack of distraction on the ground, as plane paths intersect in a white dotted knot. If you own a 3DTV the game also features a stereoscopic 3D mode, which adds extra depth to proceedings but likely won't blow you out of your chair with amazement.
The soundtrack is similarly slim, with only one tune that plays once before fading to silence, leaving you with just the occasional beep when planes pass too close for comfort. The lack of music and almost all other sound effects helps you to concentrate but doesn't necessarily contribute to engaging audio accompaniment.
Flight Control HD is engaging, addictive and a perfect showcase for the accuracy of the Move's pointer system, with intricate paths plotted easily and accurately. It's graphically sharp in a subtle kind of way, with none of the game's charm lost in the transition to the big screen, although it's not the most visually exciting game you'll play on PS3. Online multiplayer would have been a bonus, but the local play is still great fun, particularly on the new super-sized airfields. Whether flying solo or with a co-pilot, if you have Move, this is a flight well worth catching.