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Review: Piloteer – challenging jetpack-based silliness

A highly difficult, super rewarding game of jetpack acrobatics. Piloteer is hard, but it’s not rocket science. Oh wait, scratch that – yes it is.

Price: $2.99/£2.29
Size: 80.0 MB
Version: 1.2
Developer: Fixpoint Productions Ltd

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Piloteer is a physics-based 2D flying game based around a series of increasingly tough challenges. Master the art of jetpack control and perform stunts, fly through hoops or just crash into things like a crazy person. In fact, you’ll be doing that last one a lot whether you like it or not.


Just staying airborne is a challenge in itself

Tapping the left or right side of the screen fires your front or back thrusters. Pressing both at once sends you upwards, but not in a straight line – that would be far too easy. Flying a steady trajectory is borderline impossible in this game. The real skill is in judging the multitude of mid-air adjustments necessary to stay on course and avoid crash-landing into the sea.

The game has three unlockable levels, each with a series of challenges to complete. After a brief tutorial in which the game assures you that “crashing is okay” and “flying a jetpack is hard” you’re into your first mission. The challenges range from simple (‘land on a nearby bench’) to downright ridiculous (‘in eight seconds, do three backflips, then land on a moving biplane’). It’s a good thing videogame characters can’t feel pain, because your poor jetpack pilot is in for a multitude of brutal crashes as you attempt each challenge.


The challenges start simple but soon become fiendishly difficult

The control scheme is the masterpiece of this game; deceptively simple and yet requiring masterful dexterity to perfect. If you’ve ever played the limb-wrangling QWOP, you’ll be familiar with the ridiculous flailing movements that arise from floppy 2D ragdoll physics. Playing Piloteer makes you feel like an enthusiastic but incompetent puppeteer – and it’s very funny to watch.

The player character seems to have magnetic feet, which is the only way in which the game helps out with the otherwise troublesome job of landing safely. In all other regards the mechanics are purpose-built to be crazy while still maintaining some semblance of ‘fairness’. The controls make sense, but getting to grips with the physics is easier said than done.


Careful not to dive bomb into the sea

Want to relive a particularly impressive landing, or that time you crashed headfirst into a tree? The game has a great ‘always on’ recording feature powered by Everyplay, meaning you can rewatch you finest moments, or share your best/worst instant replays via email or social media. It’s a nice touch for a game that creates a lot of “watch this!” moments.

Thematically the game is pretty unique, with hand-drawn paper diorama graphics, ironically serene piano music, and a mad inventor backstory told through news headlines. It all adds up to a surprisingly cohesive experience with great presentation.


Change the media’s perception of the danger of jetpacks by… flying your jetpack dangerously

Piloteer falls on the frustrating side of the difficulty spectrum, but balances that with the fact that even failure is fun. How much you enjoy flailing, bailing and failing (in that order) will determine how much life you can squeeze out of this game, but even the ‘Free Fly’ sandbox mode is a lot of fun if you enjoy the miracle of flight. If you do manage to finish this game you’ll be a true master of momentum, trajectories, balance and crashing into things.

Although not particularly long, it’s possible to eke a decent amount of gameplay from Piloteer for the entry price. It would be nice to see some additional levels or types of challenge – the framework could easily work with racing, diving or even bailing challenges. Hopefully a future update will bring a little more content.


Luckily the game doesn’t feature a lives system or we’d be knee-deep in Game Overs

The difficulty level and slightly absurd challenge-based gameplay means it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but once you ‘get it’ the game is extremely satisfying and a real blast to play. If you’re looking for a silly game with a serious challenge, this is it.