Does Air Mail deliver, or did the package arrive damaged?
Generally, I am not a big fan of flight games. I usually find them frustrating, especially on iOS. Most games of this ilk require a great deal of precision, and I just do not think that the iPhone and iPad can deliver the required level of precise control to make an flight game fully competent. The devices are more than capable of delivering in terms of visuals, but that is only half the battle.
I think these games work best when they have an arcadey feel. Trying to create a simulator never seems to end as well as it could (there are exceptions, of course). That is why I am glad the folks at Chillingo decided to make this game feel much more like an arcade game, and less like a simulator.
In Air Mail, you play as a young lad that joins a group of island pilots. You will be performing all kinds of missions along the way. The first batch of missions involves picking up and delivering packages to their destination. As the game progresses, you will start performing other missions, although the basic mechanics stay the same.
Some missions will see you picking up packages of some kind and bringing it to a specific location. Others will see you flying through rings, and some will have you gathering a certain amount of materials. The mechanics might sound pretty mundane, but the game wraps them in a well-done story to keep them interesting.
Instead of gathering mail, one mission sees you flying low to catch fish and deliver them so the people of the island do not starve. In a mission that sees you flying through rings, you are helping boost the morale of protesters by dropping confetti at the location of each ring. This is smart because it gives the mechanics of the game a purpose.
Controlling flight works in one of three ways in Air Mail. There is tilt, touch and advanced. Tilt, as you might guess involves tilting the plane to turn, climb and dive. With the tilt method, you will still be controlling the airplane’s speed with the touch screen. The touch method involves using an onscreen joystick to control the plane. Personally, I enjoyed the touch method, and I used it throughout most of the game.
The advanced method is a different beast from the other two. There are two sliders on either side of the screen, and you move both of these up or down to climb and dive. If you want to roll the airplane, you move only one of the sliders. You also steer the plane by tilting the device. It is called advanced for a reason, and while everything works as described, I just could not get a handle on this method and I ended up staying away from it.
In some missions, things can get pretty intense. You will be navigating some tight areas, where you have to be extremely accurate in your flying. Thankfully, they included multiple camera angles to help you see where you are going. That being said, the only views that are useful are the first-person and the one directly behind the plane. The far away view makes it hard to control your plane (suitable for cinematic style showing only), and the bird’s eye view makes it impossible to make out if you going to fly over an obstacle or directly into it.
As you get further in the game, you will start to engage in “combat.” I use quotes because you never actually fire a bullet. Instead, you are using only your flying skills to avoid enemies who are shooting at you and trying to sabotage their war efforts. As the story progresses and I realized that war was coming, I was just waiting for them to start strapping some rockets to my plane. I found it incredibly refreshing when they never did.
In the main story, there are seven chapters, so there is plenty to keep you busy. Besides the story, there are also job the Express Delivery missions, which follow the same format as the main missions, just without the story. If that gets old, you can also play Explore mode. In this mode, you fly around the different locations looking for hidden objects. When you add it all up, there is plenty of gameplay to keep you busy for quite a few hours.
The sound and visuals are excellent, but there is one place they fall a little short. For whatever reason, the cut-scenes do not fill up the whole screen. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why they used such a low resolution. They also seem a little out of place from a visual style point of view, like they have been rushed. But, realistically, the cutscenes only happen between each chapter, and they are minor. The important thing is that the game looks great while in motion.
Every detail of the game looks great; the buildings, the water, and the sky all come together for a joyous visual experience. Throw in the voice acting, and overall sound design, and you have a great audio and visual experience.
This is one of my favorite high-flying games on iOS. It looks fantastic, provides solid options for controls and has a cool story that makes each and every task feel important. I would love to have seen some multiplayer and improved cutscenes. That being said, this is a damn good game that I absolutely loved, and highly recommend.
Air Mail is available on as a universal app for $4.99. Get it on the App Store.