Ready for takeoff with Flight

Flight is a new iOS title from Armor Games. The iOS edition is the second incarnation of the game after a free Web version on Armor Games’ own website.

Flight’s premise is very simple — pick up a paper airplane and throw it as far as possible. There is a flimsy narrative premise attached to the game, with the paper airplane in question carrying various “letters” to people around the world, but the main point of the game is for the player to simply throw the paper plane and keep it in the air for as long as possible. Initially, this is extremely difficult, but as the game progresses and the player acquires in-game currency by collecting stars, it becomes possible to upgrade the plane with new abilities, many of which allow the player to control the aircraft after it has been launched.

Controls make use of a very simple and intuitive touch control interface. The player picks up the plane and throws it by tapping and dragging on the screen. In fact, initially the control scheme feels so simple that it’s easy to believe that there must be more to it, but until the player purchases the abilities to “boost” their aircraft by tapping the screen or alter its trajectory by tilting, that really is all there is to Flight. Small hand-held windmill toys on the ground provide the plane with a temporary lift when it is about to hit the floor, but coming into contact with these is more a matter of luck than anything. Later levels also boast invisible wind currents that can affect the plane’s trajectory and velocity, but by this point the player will have probably purchased some abilities that will help them take advantage of these or escape them as appropriate.

While the game has an undeniably addictive quality helped by the fact that it only takes a matter of seconds to make each new attempt and that there is no “failure” as such, it’s difficult to avoid the fact that there is no particularly sure-fire method to “success” either.  This issue is compounded somewhat by the somewhat illogical fact that the unlockable tilt controls cost fuel to use — were this restriction not in place, there would have been a much greater element of skill to gameplay. Even the developers know this restriction doesn’t makes sense — the game notes that “this uses fuel for some reason” when the tilt controls tutorial appears for the first time.

The upgrade items also start to cost large amounts of in-game currency after their first level or two, gently nudging players in the direction of the in-app currency purchase facility. An average run early in the game will net the player between $100 and $300 of in-game currency, while the most expensive item in the store costs $30,000. There are also several consumable items that players can purchase for a significant advantage, giving the game a touch of “pay to win” about it — and, as usual, making the in-game leaderboards relatively meaningless.

Games where the player is obviously pushed in the direction of in-app purchases in order to remain competitive have proven less than popular with the most vocal of App Store reviewers of late, so this game is likely to draw similar criticisms — after all, why bother actually playing the game when “victory” can effectively be purchased? Still, Flight’s in-app purchases are cheaper than some other iOS titles,  and with no sign of $99 currency packages — the most expensive is $2.99 for $30,000 in in-game cash — the game will probably be perceived as less “exploitative” than most.

The issue with Flight is not the in-app purchasing, however — it’s the fact that there just isn’t a lot to the game. Even with the unlockable tilt and boost controls, gameplay is still mostly luck-based, as the player has no way of knowing if they’re going to hit an advantageous wind current or windmill. For this reason, it’s best considered an idle timewaster at best rather than something that’s likely to set the mobile gaming world alight.

Due to its recent release, Flight is not yet ranked on the App Store leaderboards. Check back shortly to follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for iOS and social games and developers.