Version Reviewed: 1.0.6
Device Reviewed On: iPad Air
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Need a little help getting off the ground? Or maybe staying in the air? Check out our SimplePlanes beginner's guide!
Of all the modern miracles of everyday life, airplanes are pretty high up on the list. Think about how crazy it is that casually sending people thousands of feet above the ground in giant machines is actually one of the safer ways to travel. SimplePlanes tries to turn building planes and understanding the theory behind them into an accessible flight sim, but despite the name, planes are complicated.
SimplePlanes gives players all the tools they need to build airplanes from scratch. But successfully making use of those tools means wrapping your head around all the different parts and physics that, presumably, actual engineers need to consider. The game tries to help ease players in with its extensive manuals explaining the difference between an airfoil and a fuselage, but absorbing that data takes time and practice. There are a few convenient shortcuts, like the ability to mirror the plane so players won’t have to waste time sculpting the perfect wing twice. But like Minecraft, the best rewards - whether it’s a speedy biplane or functioning VTOL aircraft - will come to those with the patience to literally construct them piece by piece.
The game also features a handful of single player levels that act as an additional tutorial. These challenges help players master certain concepts and usually require some modifications to the standard plane. Want to take off faster? Shave off as much weight as you can. Need to avoid deadly missiles? Focus on maneuverability.
However, seeing how big of an impact these tiny details can have makes the slippery controls all the more problematic. Let your finger drift slightly and watch your plane veer wildly off-course as a result. SimplePlanes's simple art style also suffers in comparison to its powerful toolkit. The sole island environment is ugly, muddy, and blocky, like a poor man’s Wii Sports Resort, and even the best planes still resemble wooden toys.
Who knows if the aerodynamic knowledge players learn from SimplePlanes can actually transfer over into the real world? But, gameplay and visual gripes aside, the fact that it at least feels like it can is probably the best compliment this game can get.