In space, no-one can hear you get frustrated as a cynical business model spoils your fun
In the early days of iOS, Flight Control was one of the few titles that stood out and made us believe there was something to this finger-prodding, swipey gaming lark. It arrived without fanfare and proceeded to take over our lives, as we battled to avoid a heart-wrenching mid-air collision between cute little aircraft flying over a cute little airfield.
Flight Control subsequently kick-started an entire genre of copycat games, but developer Firemint quietly kept improving its original – more craft, massive iPad airfields, multiplayer; and then, presumably, roll around on huge piles of cash, earned through selling millions of copies.
The problem with sequel Flight Control Rocket is that now EA’s in control, rolling around naked on huge piles of cash appears to have been prioritised over the emphasis to create something ‘hugely playable, insanely simple and brilliantly intuitive’_ And yet it all starts so promisingly. On the title screen you get some jolly surfer rock and luscious Retina graphics. As the title suggests, Flight Control Rocket is set in space, and you’re tasked with landing fleets of ships, again by dragging paths for them to follow. The ships are actually more varied than the original game’s planes — along with those that move at different speeds, you get ships that launch scouting craft, those that eject pods, strings of yellow fighters that play follow-the-leader, speedy green rockets that zoom in from every screen edge, and freighters that lumber in and demand their load is rapidly dealt with.
Once a short tutorial is completed, you get to ‘journey to the end of infinity’, which essentially means ‘play forever until you screw up’. Rocket is in some ways friendlier than its predecessor: you get three lives; craft slow if they are about to collide; and the game is more clearly wave-based. But it becomes very predictable.
Then there are the coins. Giant, lazily floating space coins can be prodded to add to your kitty, which you can later empty in order to buy things. You can also buy coins in the in-game shop. This largely unnecessary LAP-infused business model, derails an otherwise good game. It’s not quite enough to tarnish Flight Control Rocket with the brush of badness, but it’s hard to be motivated to battle your friends when whoever has the deepest pocket wins.