Developer: KLM
Price: Free
Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Branded games are nothing new. Games based on well established airline companies, though? Now, that’s quite new. Aviation Empire is an airline simulator, based around the history of Dutch company KLM. It feels reasonably realistic too rather than the more casual airline sims that are out there, although it is hampered with a few flaws.

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Players start out at the beginning of the KLM story: 1919 when it was first founded, with the first flight in 1920 between London and Amsterdam. There, players work towards building KLM up to be the highly successful company it now is. There’s a certain amount of flexibility to this, although a timeline full of objectives ensure that one must still follow a familiar path.

For the most part, players will be spending their time building new airports, establishing new connections for their flights, and buying new planes. Planes are historically accurate so don’t expect to have some modern day creations early on. Plane enthusiasts will particularly appreciate this, given the inclusion of such classic planes as the Fokker, before giving way to Boeing’s iconic 747. All in good time, of course.

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Like any sim, making money is at the forefront of the player’s mind throughout, as well as keeping the passengers happy and the planes in the air. It takes a while to click, mostly because the tutorials can be a little heavy on the detail. It’s not a game to dip into, like other more casual sims on iOS. It needs some concentration, at least early on, while learning the ropes. Developing airports isn’t just a matter of building new runways, but also building hotels and other places to keep people happy.

Slightly awkward controls, that make zooming in and out not quite as intuitive as one would like, don’t help matters. It’s worth persevering, though, as Aviation Empire proves quite rewarding. Rather originally, it’s possible to fly the actual planes on their route too. It’s a little gimmicky, but quite enjoyable for a time. For those who travel regularly, there’s the bonus of unlocking new airports by checking in at the real life destination, circumventing the need to unlock them through solely in-game methods.

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Aviation Empire is certainly an interesting title, and quite fun in time. It’s not quite as friendly as one would like, though, mostly because of the sometimes counter-intuitive controls, as well as issues with screen space on the iPhone screen. Stick at it though, it makes a pleasant change from the sims that are usually seen on the App Store.

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