Rule the Air with Pocket Planes

Nearly a year after their hit game Tiny Tower was released, Nimblebit has contributed yet another tycoon-style game to their arsenal. This time around you get to rule the air. Pocket Planes has flown to the top of the App Store charts, but can it fly to the top of ours? Find out after the break.

Arriving at the Airport

In Pocket Planes, you have the chance to build up your own airline. Everything from the airports to the planes to even the shipments made are completely in your control. Better yet, you’re almost guaranteed an international outreach if you play the game enough.

Your adventure awaits at the airport

Your adventure awaits at the airport

Luckily for us, controls aren’t as hard as flying a plane, at least not at first. The basic gist of the game is load up your cargo or passengers, click the farthest button on the right, select the given destination (it flashes), and press the fly button. Yes, it is that simple. Even so, controls are quite confusing at first due to the fact that the tutorial layout is quite different from the actual game. After a few tries though, you will get the hang of it.

Frequent Flying

Now that you have an idea of what the game is all about, let’s get down into the details. Essentially, the goal of this game is to raise enough money to expand your airline across the globe from wherever region you chose to start off in.

Filling up your plane with items going to the same destination results in a bonus

Filling up your plane with items going to the same destination results in a bonus

To maximize your profit, it is best if you combine cargo with the same destination that is preferably as far away as possible. The farther the destination, the more it will cost the passenger to fly. Plus, if the plane is filled with just cargo headed to the same destination, you will be awarded a 25% bonus onto each item. Jobs are refreshed every four minutes, so you can load up cargo over a span of time in case you just need one more item to gain that bonus.

Of course, the farther the destination is, the longer it will take for the shipment to get there. Flights on Pocket Planes are measured in minutes, so if the flight screen reads “4M,” it will take 4 minutes to complete. Granted, as you move on through the game and come to international flights, there will be flights that can take upwards of half an hour to complete.

You are easily able to monitor the status of your flights via the airplane button on the bottom right

You are easily able to monitor the status of your flights via the airplane button on the bottom right

Just like in Tiny Tower, Pocket Planes provides more than enough VIP passengers and shipments for you to fly around. Unlike typical cargo, VIP cargo pays you Bux to fly to their destination. However, VIP cargo will cost you money to ship, so it is best if you ship them alongside something that will pay in coins.

Overall, the gameplay is really quite awesome. It is very involved and awfully addicting, plus it requires attention to detail and a little bit of logic. I have found myself sitting for hours just waiting for that flight to come in, trying to gain enough coins to buy a new airport or enough Bux to buy a new plane. It’s just one of those games that is simply fun, and it’s great.

The Hubs

Airports are obviously a very important part of your airline empire. There are three different types of airports, which are symbolized by different colored dots. The black are the least busy airports, red are the most busy and blue is the in-between. The busier the airport, the more expensive it will be to purchase.

Look out—your smaller airports are prone to fill up quick when there are no jobs

Look out—your smaller airports are prone to fill up quick when there are no jobs

Even though they are a large business cost, buying into larger airports is something you will most definitely want to pay attention to as your airline grows larger. If you buy into a lot of small, rinky-dink airports there will not be enough jobs to fill up your aircraft, which may end up costing you money in the end.

Building Your Fleet

There wouldn’t be an airline without the planes, right? As your airline grows larger, you will need to amp up your fleet with some new aircraft. But doing this isn’t as easy as it seems. First, you will need to clear up slots for your new aircraft. This can be done by retiring old aircraft by moving them to your hangar, or by buying up new slots, which get more costly as you go on.

Aircraft themselves can be purchased in two ways from the market. The first way you can buy aircraft is by buying the separate parts: the engine, body and control system. Aircraft parts are often awarded to you after opening new airports, but need the corresponding parts to build up a working airplane. While this is cheaper, it can take much longer to build up an aircraft than it would to buy a preconfigured one, which is your second option. Preconfigured airplanes do cost more, but they are completely yours upon purchase.

Be sure to keep your eye on the market — you never know what will be there next

Be sure to keep your eye on the market — you never know what will be there next

All of your aircraft are customizable as well. You can give all of your planes a paint job to match your airline’s color scheme. Speed, weight and engine upgrades make your planes faster, lighter and travel farther than they ever were able to before. Of course, the planes get bigger and better as you level up. Eventually, you will get to the class of planes that can fly overseas without a problem.

It is important to note that you need to spend your Bux on planes and upgrades (no, not coins), and aircraft can put a pretty large dent in your wallet. Plus, the market is refreshed pretty frequently, so that perfect airplane may not be there the next time you check into the market. This adds some sort of realism into the game and forces you to make some important decisions on the spot.

Complimentary Beverages, Anyone?

We’d leave it to Nimblebit to pack up their app with more extras than ever imaginable. And yes, Pocket Planes does come with the beloved extras, like BitBook: A bitizen’s favorite social network and the bank where you can exchange Bux for coins, that Tiny Tower did possess. Still, Pocket Planes does have many extras that are unique to itself.

Some of these extras are quite practical. For example, Airpedia allows you to scope out the airplane market so you can decide what your next purchase will be even before it comes out. Airpedia gives you all the stats on each plane, whether it’d be range, speed, capacity and much more. The Logs feature allows you to scope out how profitable each of your planes are so you know which ones you need to replace. Stats will tell you statistics for your airline in general and highlight milestones like the longest or most profitable flight.

Pocket Planes literally does include everything but the kitchen sink

Pocket Planes literally does include everything but the kitchen sink

 

Possibly one of the coolest features of Pocket Planes is that it can be synced with multiple devices via iCloud. This allows you to pick up the same game on a second device if your iPad is not on hand. The progress made will be synced back to your iPad once you have it back on hand.

As for in-app purchases, you are able to buy packs of Bux for a cost. Packs of 20 Bux, 200 Bux, 1,000 Bux and 5,000 Bux will cost you $0.99, $4.99, $19.99 and $39.99 respectively. Quite honestly, only the first two packs would be worth it as Bux are awarded rather generously.

Baggage Claim

Just like its older brother Tiny Tower, Pocket Planes features that awesome 8-bit graphic style. Although it is 8-bit, the artwork still has that awesome depth and detail that you would get otherwise which is really cool. The style also adds a little bit of fun into the game itself, which is always nice to see.

The 8-bit art still maintains detail — awesome!

The 8-bit art still maintains detail — awesome!

Something I didn’t particularly like about the interface is the fact that the developers didn’t use the iPad’s screen space to its fullest potential. In the iPad version, the actual playing is spaced is framed, presumably to keep the aspect ratio the same as the iPhone’s. While this does not really affect the game, it would have been nice to have seen the iPad’s space utilized fully.

The Verdict

At the end of the day, Pocket Planes is one of the best tycoon-style games I have ever played on the iPad. Gameplay is addicting and requires a lot of action, which makes it a go-to game at any time. It’s packed with extras, and is more full featured than many paid apps in the App Store. The only problem I have found with the application was that the app doesn’t utilize the whole screen — and that doesn’t even affect how the game runs. For the price of free, Pocket Planes is undoubtedly a must have.


Summary

An awesome, addictive, 8-bit airline building game for your iPad

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