Flight Control HD hits all the high notes.

I don’t envy the job of the air traffic controller. It seems like a job that is stressful beyond measure. Not exactly the kind of job we look to step into when we sit down to play a video game. Rock star, race car driver, football player… these are more like it. Pretty much the opposite end of the spectrum from guiding planes so they don’t crash in midair. So it’s a bit surprising that a game where you have to do that can be compelling, but Flight Control HD is just that.

It’s a game that anyone that owns an iPhone or iPod touch is familiar with but that certainly doesn’t include all of us so let’s talk about exactly what Flight Control HD is. In this game your (not so) simple task is to guide airplanes in for a safe landing without crashing them into each other. You’ll do that by clicking and dragging a path for each plane to follow and bringing them home safe (There’s also a touchpad mode for laptops but I wasn’t able to try that out). You’ll get a point for each plane in, and the game ends when two crash into each other.

Flight Control HD

It’s a pretty simple concept, but gets increasingly complex as the game throws more and more planes onscreen at once for you to deal with. Not to mention that planes move at different speeds and different colored aircraft need to land on different colored runways. Later on you even need to factor in wind or do some stunt flying before landing. So yea, simple concept but anything but simple in practice.

As a huge fan of this on the iPod touch I’ve said numerous times how I think it’s the perfect implementation of touch screen controls, which I believe have a limited application. At first I was a bit put off by the idea of controlling this chaos with a mouse, thinking there’s no way it would control as well. Well I couldn’t be more wrong in that regard. While I can say I prefer the touch screen to the mouse they’re both equal in terms of control, and my high scores on both are almost exactly the same. It’s a different but equally good experience.

In a bonus over the iDevice versions floating out there, the PC version has many more runways to play on, giving you a better variety of setups to play on. I especially enjoyed the stunt plane map where you have to weave in and out of cones to earn points before landing. That variety adds greatly to the longevity of the game overall.

Flight Control HD does a pitch perfect job of blending the necessary elements to create a compelling game that works well whether in your pocket or on your desktop. My only complaint here is having to unlock most of the maps, I just wish they let me get at them all at the start. Especially when the final map takes 500 planes landed safely to unlock, it kind of feels arbitrary since you can just play the first level over and over to get there.

Flight Control HD

Flight Control HD plays all the right notes in the “How to make an addicting game symphony.” First you start off with some nice simple to understand game controls to introduce the masterpiece. Then the graphics section chimes in and sets you at ease with it’s gentle comforting style. Now the action starts as the piece really ramps up. There are spikes of emotion when it looks like you’re not going to survive, and then you do! And then there’s the high score… oh, the high score. It’s like the cymbal crash at the end of the song. The final punch, the bash as it echoes through the hall. You know no matter how great it sounded, if we try it again it just might sound BETTER.

See that’s the simple secret to the addictive nature of these games, the high score. There’s no end to the game, no finish line. You can never be “done.” No matter how high your score is, there’s a chance that if you play one more time you can best it. It’s a never ending race against yourself and, thanks to the built in leaderboard, the rest of the internet as well.