App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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People are always clamoring for iOS ports of older games. New ones, too, but a PC game from ’93 is much more likely to run on an iPhone or iPad than something that requires several gigs of space and a $2000 graphics card. We’ve been seeing more and more classics getting the treatment, and it’s something I couldn’t be happier about. Unfortunately, for every resounding success there’s an Airline Tycoon Deluxe.
As with many simulation games of the time, Air Tycoon Deluxe wraps a complex series of options and toggles in a lighthearted cartoony package. After selecting one of a handful of characters (a.k.a an airline color), it’s all about hiring personnel and buying new planes. And setting up flight plans. And outfitting said planes. It’s complicated enough to make any fan of the genre smile.
Airline Tycoon Deluxe is a deceptively complex sim. Virtually every aspect of the airline can be adjusted or controlled, and rivals are always out to make things more difficult. Of course there’s also the nostalgia factor for fans of the original PC game. But even that can’t make up for the massive problems.
A big stumbling block is the tutorial. In short, it’s just not very helpful. It covers a handful of the very basics, then just tosses players out into the game proper. It’s certainly plausible for someone to learn by doing, but after so many years spent with more robust how-to guides it feels like something that fell through the cracks. I’m sure genre purists won’t mind, but the rest of the game is stymied by a major one-two punch: the text is so small it’s almost illegible on the iPhone, and the controls are horrendous. I mean HORRENDOUS. The hit detection is about 50/50 and there’s a total lack of indication as to what can be tapped unless players touch and drag all over the screen to bring up info boxes. But by far the worst issue is the inability to exit certain menus. Seriously, I felt like I had to turn four times counter-clockwise in the middle of a wheat field on the solstice to get out of the hiring screen (pictured). I’m not kidding; it took several minutes of random tapping before it decided to release me.
The core aspects of Airline Tycoon Deluxe are all solid and would most likely make for a great simulation, especially to genre fans or anyone who loved the original PC release. It’s just got no hope of reaching that potential with a control system as inherently broken as the one it has right now. Getting past the text is possible with enough squinting and eyestrain, to a degree, but those controls, man. Those controls.