Game

It’s ‘plane’ to see this relentless arcade balancing act was one of the App Store’s best

Many games merely make up the numbers. A precious few become part of history. In this latest entry in our series on classic iPhone games, we take a look at a title that gave you insight into the sheer terror of air traffic control.

What was Flight Control?

This single screen arcade game tasked you with getting planes down safely at absurdly busy airports. Red jets would zoom in, yellow biplanes had less pace, and helicopters doddered around. In all cases, they needed directing to their respective landing zones.

The more aircraft you successfully landed, the more would appear on screen at once, forcing you to direct them along increasingly labyrinthine routes to avoid a game-ending in-air collision. Over time, developer Firemint added new maps and hazards to keep players coming back for more.

Why was it a classic?

Flight Control arrived a mere eight months after the App Store itself debuted. Like the best early titles, it understood that the iPhone was unlike other hardware on which you could play games. Suitably, it was tactile fare, as you directly tapped planes to select them and drew their intended routes with a finger.

The game was also endlessly replayable. When your latest effort abruptly ended with a collision between a massive jet and a helicopter you’d not spotted slowly moving across the screen, you’d immediately want to try again. And over time, you’d perfect techniques like having jets line up almost nose-to-tail to get a group of them down in one go.

Where is it now?

Flight Control made its way to iPad, making good use of the extra screen space, and was an excellent game to play on a table. But the writing was probably on the wall when Firemint was swallowed up by EA.

A sequel arrived in 2012, taking the series to space in Flight Control Rocket. But it was a disappointment, stuffed full of IAP and grinding, and bereft of the elegance and focus of the original.

Eventually, EA presumably reasoned both games weren’t making enough money and pulled them from the App Store. Echos remain in the form of clones, the best of which is Planes Control.