Games for the Weekend is a weekly feature aimed at helping you avoid doing something constructive with your downtime. Each Friday we’ll be recommending a game for Mac, iPhone or iPad that we think is awesome. Here is one cool enough to keep you busy during this weekend.
Pocket Planes (Free Universal) is an airline simulation game where you decide how passengers and cargo are moved from airport to airport. Starting out small and efficient, you quickly learn how fast things can get out of control as you strive to take control of the world, one airport at a time.
Think in terms of task management when it comes to the game’s controls. Right from the start you see one of the planes you own waiting at the gate to pick up passengers and cargo. You select each passenger, known as a “bitizen,” and piece of cargo based off of the destination they are heading for. Each plane can hold only so many passengers and so much cargo. Once the plane is full, you set your flight plans for the destination airport and take off. You are guided thought the first flight and once you get the flow down, getting a plane ready for takeoff becomes a straightforward process.
Flights take only minutes to complete. You’ll find that it does not take too much time, once all of your aircraft are airborne, for the first one to reach its destination and you’ll start booking passengers and loading cargo all over again. If you like, you can watch your planes flying to their destinations, and tap on a ‘Bux’ or two as they fly by in the air. Otherwise the game will alert you using an iOS notification when each of your planes arrive at their destination. Keeping track of which planes are headed to each destination is where the memory challenge begins. Having too many planes headed to the same destination all at once means that your entire fleet may be trying to book the same passengers all at once. Depending on the size of the airport, there are only so many bitizens to go around.
After the first few flights, you realize that each flight costs money to operate. The larger the plane and the heavier the cargo the more it costs to fly. You earn money, know as “bux,” by flying passengers and cargo to their destination. You can even purchase additional bux through in-app purchases. When you have earned enough bux, you can trade them in for coins to help expand your airline. Establishing a new route at an airport you currently do not fly to, adding an additional flight slot to your airline’s list of flights, and purchasing additional planes will each cost you big bux. Getting into larger airports and flying more passengers longer distances will take some time to build up to.
The more planes you have in the air, the faster you earn money. In order to fill the larger planes on each flight, you will need to add larger airports to your list of destinations. Some of the largest airports are far enough apart that only the largest of aircraft will be able to make it in one stop. Keeping track of where each plane should be flying to continues to be a challenge throughout the game. To help you keep things organized, you can paint your planes different colors. This can help you keep better track of your aircraft visually, and perhaps establish certain regions each colored plane will fly within.
To help keep things interesting, the passengers post messages to a BitBook. Here you can learn about the personality behind each passenger you pick up. And each bitizen can “like” other bitizens’ posts to the BitBook. It’s like a social network built just for the virtual world of traveling bitizens. Even the cargo you transport has descriptive and fun descriptions. Just like the real world, certain airports will shut down due to weather and other events that you will have to monitor as you take on passengers before each flight.
There are plenty of ways to play the game, including modifying and building your own planes in your airline’s hangar. When it comes to building out your fleet, the game definitely takes on more of a role-playing feel as you can upgrade not only your planes, but also your terminal at each airport. You even have the ability to advertise at each airport in order to attract more passengers to your airline. This is also one of the few games that I have played that truly syncs gameplay through your GameCenter account between each of my devices, including between the OS X and iOS version of the game. It is this attention to detail that really makes the game fun to play.