Oct 11, 2012
There’s something incredibly endearing about the “Bitizens” that occupy NimbleBit’s iOS games. Packing them into planes and watching them fly across the world as your money total slowly ticks up is both cute and addictive. Along the way, you’ll experience frequent payoffs as you open new routes and unlock larger, faster planes that make your airline more profitable. Pocket Planes may keep you entertained for several days, but it suffers from a lack of real strategy. You’ll likely lose interest as you begin to realize it’s essentially a game that plays itself.
An Airline Tycoon Game
I’ve had a fondness for airline business simulations since playing Aerobiz Supersonic for the first time. I loved the aviation theme of the game as well as the fact that it gave the player a wide variety of options without bogging down in micromanagement. At first glance, the theme and retro graphics of Pocket Planes make it seem like a very similar game. There are no opponents or concrete goals, though, and the game progresses in real time rather than in turns. Events frequently take place in certain cities, giving you opportunities to win prizes by delivering passengers and cargo to the cities hosting the events. Otherwise, your only goal is to build your airline.
Pocket Planes Strategy
At the beginning of Pocket Planes, your airline will consist of just a few planes and airport slots. The core game mechanic consists of checking a city’s available passengers and cargo, filling your plane — preferably with people and items all going to the same destination — and plotting a route. Depending on the distance of the route, the plan may take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or more to reach its final destination. Thankfully, planes continue on their way even when you put your device on standby or use another app.
In Pocket Planes, most of your customers pay their fare in coins. However, some special customers pay in a second currency called Bux. This is where NimbleBit earns its income; you can earn Bux slowly by waiting for these special customers, or you can buy Bux via in-app purchases. Bux are also available in other ways; you can find them randomly while your planes are in flight or win them in events. You also receive a few Bux each time your airline gains levels. While coins allow you to gain airport slots or increase the maximum number of planes your airline can support, buying and upgrading planes requires Bux. There’s little incentive to spend real money on Bux, though, as queuing up your planes and sending them on their way requires little active involvement in the game. Otherwise, you’re simply waiting for planes to land so you can fill them back up again.
The fact that there’s little active involvement in Pocket Planes makes it a fun diversion to flip to when you’re doing other things, but it limits the game’s ability to hold interest over the long term. In the beginning, all of your flights will be profitable. As you get larger planes, though, you’ll need to fill them to capacity to earn more than it costs to get them into the air. However, this simply requires filling the plane as much as possible and waiting a few minutes for the game to display the message “New Jobs Available” so you can add more passengers and cargo. This is the extent of the strategy in Pocket Planes.
Worth the Download
Although Pocket Planes is very limited in scope, I find myself continuing to check on my airline frequently several days after downloading the game. There is a certain amount of reward in getting larger planes, unlocking a rare aircraft or making your first transatlantic flight — and that’s enough to keep me coming back for the time being. It’s also enough to make Pocket Planes a recommended Tycoon-type game for iOS. After you’ve grown tired of the leveling treadmill and lack of real strategy, though, you’re likely to uninstall and forget about it.