You’re probably aware of Tiny Tower, a tycoon and management-style game from developer NimbleBit that recieved strong reviews and some pretty strong attention when it seemed Zynga blatantly ripped them off. Earlier this year, they released a new game, Pocket Planes, for mobile platforms which also received critical acclaim (scoring a full 10/10 in our iPad review) and got me seriously addicted.
When browsing the Mac App Store recently, I came across an interesting discovery. NimbleBit has brought the insanely popular game to the Mac in a port that even boasts syncing with its iOS brother. Let’s take a look and see how it stacks up to the well-recieved experience on your iPhone and iPad.
Preparing for Depature
Pocket Planes is all about building your own airline, by buying and commanding a fleet of planes to transport passengers and cargo between the airports you’ve invested in. There’s a little strategy involved too: by choosing your passengers and the exact route your plane takes, you can maximise profit and upgrade your airline faster.
Starting a new game, you’ll get to choose an area of the world to start out. Due to financial constraints, this is probably where you’ll spend a considerable amount of the time so you may want to choose strategically. Opt for Europe to take advantage of all the continental traffic or start off on the East Coast of the US and take over North America’s airspace.
Your airline will start off a few nearby airports and some small planes, with a small sum of money in the bank. You can get started right away, shuttling passengers and cargo between these short differences by boarding some traffic, scheduling a flight manifest and authorising takeoff. The flight will takeoff and take some time to arrive — starting at about one or two minutes for nearby airports, and increasing depending on the distance — which allows you to sit back and wait, or begin scheduling other flights.
A secondary currency, “Bux”, can be used to instantly move these flights to their destination. Bux can be earned through special opportunities in the game, or purchased with real money through the App Store if you’re not one to wait.
Naturally, multiple planes can be flying at a time so the more you have in your fleet, the more can be flying. Additional planes can be purchased in the Market, again for Bux, either as fully assembled aircraft or in parts, which you can then construct. As you progress, better planes will become available to buy. Better planes can also fly further distances, without needing to pass through non-necessary airports.
The other area for upgrading is by extending your reach, achieved by unlocking additional airports with payment of in-game coins (earned by completing flights in game or by exchanging your Bux for them, allowing you to buy them with real cash too). The better, higher-traffic airports cost more but the potential for more, potentially better jobs is there.
Pocket Planes retains the style of NimbleBit’s other apps, with graphics purposely pixelated. It has a nice charm too it, and allows you to play the app even at very small resolutions without having any issue making out what’s going on or using the interface.
The controls are largely a mere port from iOS. They certainly work, but the game is designed for touch rather than traditional mouse-and-keyboard, which does make for some awkward moments. There isn’t that much of an issue and the app is still controllable, by all means, but it doesn’t seem much specific thought has gone into the control system for OS X.
One very notable feature of Pocket Planes is the inclusion of syncing with iCloud, allowing for games to coexist and work together on both OS X and iOS. So, it’s a seamless process to simply pull up the app on your Mac and continue the exact same game that was played on your iPhone, and vice versa.
With a lot of games taking their cross-platform players for granted, this is a very nice inclusion.
Pocket Planes is a fun game — even addicting for a lot of players, including myself — and having it on the Mac, for free, is a great advantage. The gameplay is fairly simple and the presentation is charming, but the controls don’t seem like they are designed with Mac users in mind.
However, iCloud syncing is a great feature that allows this to be a game you’re always playing, even if you’re not actually playing it. Take the app on your commute to work and then keep a tab on your flights when you’re there.