Review: Air WingsPosted: March 19, 2012
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of paper airplanes, so it comes as no surprise that I’m enjoying the latest game from Pangea Software. The venerable creators of my favorite classic Mac games have a modern iOS hit on their hands with Air Wings. After re-releasing some older OS X games on the App Store like Nanosaur 2, Bugdom 2, and Cro-Mag Rally, Pangea has moved on to new material.
Air Wings puts you behind the controls of a maneuverable paper airplane, flying through a variety of household environments like a cardboard box fort or a sandbox. You pick up weapons (spitballs, rubber bands, pencil missiles, etc) to engage in multiplayer online battle through Game Center.
The controls are similar to any other accelerometer-based flight game. Tilt the iDevice to direct your plane and use buttons to fire, select weapons, boost, or calibrate the accelerometer. There’s a pretty low flight ceiling, so don’t expect to haul up on your iPhone to pull a loop and get the drop on a tailing opponent – you’ll just straighten out into a level flight at max altitude. Controls are responsive and can be adjusted for sensitivity. The 3D graphics are nice, but hardly revolutionary. It’s a lot like Bugdom in that respect, set in a miniature environment filled with everyday objects like flashlights and concrete blocks.
Unlike Pangea’s other games, Air Wings uses a freemium payment model. This means that the app is free to download and play, but you can pay via in-app purchases to unlock more planes and maps. By default you can use only the most basic plane and one combat arena. This isn’t too bad though, since multiplayer battles take place in any randomized map whether you’ve bought it or not. Buying a map just allows you to use it for practice flights. The plane upgrades are worth buying, since the basic “Dart” airplane is easily outdone by the upgraded models. There are two upgrade packs for purchase, each containing two airplanes. I recommend getting only the second plane pack if you’re strapped for cash, since it gives you the extremes (the fastest, least durable plane and the toughest, slowest one) to nicely round out your arsenal. The game includes unobtrusive iAds which are removed by purchasing any upgrade.
Air Wings is the first multiplayer game I’ve played that uses Game Center for matching opponents, and it works remarkably well. You can invite friends or compete against up to three random opponents. The game builds in audio support, so you can chat with your enemies as you shoot them from the sky. Don’t worry – this can be disabled if they get upset and start shouting profanities (or if they don’t speak your language!) Game Center doesn’t seem to match players by skill or award visible points for wining or losing, but it does keep a tally of your worldwide rank just like any other game.
Overall, this is a great simple flying game for iOS. It’s not a flight sim, and it’s not for tweakers or achievement hunters. You’re not scored, nor can you change or customize your planes. But if you want to take a few minutes to strafe another paper airplane with rubber bands, sticky darts, and firecracker mines, it’s a lot of fun. After only a few hours, Air Wings has earned a permanent place in my Games folder.