Reach for the skies with Airport City on Android

Airport City, developed by Road 404 and published by Game Insight International, is a free-to-play aeronautical-themed citybuilder for  Android devices. It is also available on Facebook, where gameplay is mostly identical but a stronger emphasis is placed on social features. Our sister site Inside Social Games’ review of the Facebook version may be found here.

Note: This game was reviewed on a Motorola Xoom tablet running Android 3.2. No compatibility issues were encountered.

Beginning with an initial tutorial hosted by an impossibly-attractive cartoon female stewardess named Jane, Airport City introduces the player to its key gameplay concepts gradually. Unlike most citybuilders where the player has a single large area in which to place buildings, Airport City requires players to think a little more carefully. Available real estate is split into two areas — the airport itself, and the city. In the airport, players may only build structures which improve the way their air travel business runs: hangars to store aircraft, runways to launch and land airplanes, a terminal building and numerous other facilities. In the city, meanwhile, players must build residential, commercial and industrial buildings in order to ensure that there is a steady flow of money coming in — not to mention plenty of passengers who want carrying to far-off destinations!

There are a lot more resources to manage in Airport City than in many of its rivals. Players must ensure their city has enough electricity being generated, enough population to man various facilities, enough passengers to carry on flights and enough fuel to actually ensure airplanes can get off the ground. On top of this, there are soft and hard currencies for players to make use of, both of which may be topped up via in-app purchase.

Once the player has acquired sufficient resources to power their airport, they can purchase and send airplanes on trips around the world. This is achieved through a process with several steps — the ‘plane must be moved to the runway, stocked with fuel and loaded with passengers before being sent on its way. The flight then takes several minutes of real time to complete, at which point the player is rewarded with experience, currency and occasionally special collectible items. Completing the same flight a number of times increases the player’s mastery level of that flight path, increasing the future rewards on offer for completing it.

Most timed actions in Airport City may be sped up, but this does not usually use hard currency directly, unlike many similar games. Rather, an appropriate resource is expended — throwing additional soft currency at building projects allows them to be completed quicker, for example, while using additional fuel allows flights to pass by faster. Hard currency is typically used to purchase booster items that increase income or improve maximum fuel and passenger capacity. It may also be used to purchase “refill” items that top up players’ fuel or passenger stores in case they do not wish to wait for them to restock over time or through collecting from buildings.

Airport City is a solid game with a decent amount of depth, but a few flaws mar the experience. There is no integration with the Facebook version of the game, for example, which may frustrate those who have already put hours into the social network’s take on the game. There is Facebook and Twitter support for sharing achievement news, but it is seemingly impossible to cancel the pop-up login windows if the player subsequently decides to dismiss them rather than provide their credentials. Adding friends to play with is also handled via a “friend code” system rather than linking directly with Facebook or Twitter for invites. It’s a bit of a clunky way of handling things, which is surprising given how polished the rest of the game is.

The game is well-supported via its official Facebook page, with regular giveaways of soft and hard currency via weekly promo code. The publisher also uses the page as a cross-promotional tool for its other titles on other platforms — recent posts on the page’s Timeline have included announcements of The Tribez for iPad and the company’s next Android title Rule the Kingdom, for example.

Airport City is available now via Google Play as a free-to-play app. Google reports that the game has seen between 1 and 5 million downloads since its launch in February 2012.