Pocket Planes is an insanely popular airline / transportation business simulation game wrapped in the cutest of presentations, including all the sounds you’ve come to know and love/loathe from your favorite airline. Pocket Planes was developed by the same folks who created the equally adorable Tiny Tower, and the game is deeper and more addicting than it’s cute, retro, graphics would lead you to believe.
The game is controlled simply and easily via your fingers. There are essentially four main screens. The airport screen shows your plane on the ground, allows you to pick up various passengers and cargo, and embark on a flight to the destination city of choice. The map screen has you selecting the waypoints on a flight and features the number of minutes the trip to each airport will take you, the shop lets you purchase upgrades and aircrafts (Yes, sometimes for real money), and the hanger allows you to manage your purchased planes, parts, and other various goodies you get throughout the Pocket Planes experience.
One of the main criticisms levied against this game by the gaming press is that Pocket Planes essentially plays itself; that really all you need to do is click buttons to direct your airplanes, close the app, eat a sandwich and check back in later. I wholeheartedly disagree. Yes, like most IOS and mobile games, Pocket Planes appears simple, and yes, you can make progress and succeed in the game fairly easily, but there is depth to be found here. First and foremost, the places you build airports *matter*. Do you save money and attempt to create an airport in Chicago or NYC? Do you build lots of cheap airports in small markets? Do you keep relatively few airports at the beginning of the game while amassing an airline fleet to rival that of Britain’s RAF? You can do it. Added to this is the fact that certain airports have events that increase traffic and when one of these occur the game becomes a pretty hectic race to send all available flights to and from that particular airport. Leveling up is also a delight, and enabling you to build more airports, have more airplanes, and often time gives you a good amount of the game’s premium in-game currency, to keep you addicted in the best way possible.
The option exists to supercharge your experience by spending real life money on in-app purchases. I have not, but the game is delightful enough on it’s own where if I did choose to spend money on it, I wouldn’t feel very bad at all giving the developers my money. That’s the sort of good-will most game companies would pay dearly for. However, the fact that you need not pay dearly for this game (actually you don’t need to pay anything at all, it’s free) is astounding. The strategy options are nearly limitless, and most importantly, are light and perfectly suited to mobile gaming. This isn’t a civilization style strategy game where you’re six hours in and still have characters rubbing sticks together to create fire to show for it. If you haven’t already, download Pocket Planes and take to the airways. Perhaps my only criticism is that peanuts and Skymall are not included.