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“Top Gun” is widely regarded as a classic film, one which seems to retain a sense of timeless prestige as the years pass. Fans of the film — or iPhone games in general — will be pleased to know that a “Top Gun” game is now available for the iPhone. Fast-paced and action-packed, it is an excellent example of game development for the iPhone done right.
The story line picks up where the “Top Gun” film left off, with Maverick and Iceman now instructors at the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School, where you learn to fly. The game can be picked up quickly, is easy to dip in-and-out of, and doesn’t require any advanced flying skills.
Story & Missions
Cut scenes and a story line are provided in a cartoon style. This looks appealing and is easy to skip through if you’ve already seen the dialog before (this is likely, as it appears every time you replay a mission).
I won’t give any of the story away, but it’s a fairly simple affair! Missions are selected through choosing one of the available briefing folders. There are 10 in total, and you can replay them to unlock certain medals and achievements if desired.
Gameplay & Audio
There are two ways in which to play the game, either in a linear “Story Mode,” or by quickly replaying previously completed missions. Gameplay, in terms of flying, is fairly simple; you don’t need to worry about taking off, landing or navigating. These are handled for you, keeping your fingers free to focus on the combat and action. While I crave an application capable of mixing the realism of xPlane with the combat of a game such as this, I fear I may be asking a little too much!
The game requires you to evade enemy attacks (achieved through keeping clear of shifting “danger zones”) while simultaneously firing upon the enemy with a combination of your missiles and machine gun. Action is fast-paced as the levels progress, but remains fun on account of unlimited ammo and few complicated controls to master.
Unusually, Top Gun calibrates the position of your iPhone automatically at the beginning of each level. This can be frustrating if you don’t remember to hold the phone in a good position as the level commences. Re-calibration can be instigated through the in-game pause menu, and is as simple as tapping a button.
Various environments are used, from open deserts to the glistening sea. The graphics used in the game look excellent and plane models are reasonably detailed. In an interview with IGN, Senior Developer Bruce Morrison outlined the elements of the game that he felt worked well:
From a technology side, our real-time lighting. From a gameplay [perspective], I like how we incorporated elements from the movie that fans can really identify with, while keeping the experience fresh.
The lighting is indeed excellent and creates a compelling environment in which to play. Even more fun, however, is the in-game audio, which uses a range of songs from the original film soundtrack. These offer a remarkable nostalgia and go a long way towards making the game feel linked strongly to the movie.
Developing for the iPhone
When asked about the experience of developing for the iPhone, Bruce noted:
The iPhone is great. It’s like a tiny little Mac. It’s running OS X, so a lot of the Mac code we’ve developed over the years has come right over. A lot of the same underlying code we’ve used for other projects is running natively on the iPhone.
I’m continually impressed with how such a small device is capable of creating an immersive gaming environment and capturing your full attention. Top Gun is no exception, representing a very well-rounded game. I’m looking forward to seeing future releases from Freeverse, already well-known for games such as Big Bang Board Games and Days of Thunder.
Areas for Improvement
While Top Gun is a fun game to pick up and play, it does have a few limitations. I would appreciate a way to invert the accelerometer settings, as it felt unnatural to tilt the iPhone the opposite way to which you’d like to move. In addition, the interface can start to look a little confusing as you progress to the later missions. Multiple “danger zones,” targets, commentary, and other aircraft can quickly fill up the iPhone’s screen to a frustrating degree. Missions are relatively short, and the game does become repetitive after a few plays.
That said, the price tag of $4 is a good selling point for the app. It offers an impressive demonstration of the iPhone’s graphic capability, and is a good game to quickly “pick up and play.” If you act fast, it should be possible to take advantage of a 50 percent discount, which is running for a few more days (bringing the price down to $2). For more information, take a look at Top Gun in the App Store.