Flight Control Rocket is a new iOS title developed by Firemint and published by Electronic Arts. It’s the followup to the Australian developer’s 2009 hit Flight Control, the game widely credited with popularizing the “line drawing” genre of touchscreen gaming. A $0.99 Universal app with additional in-app purchases, the title is one of the first new games to support the new iPad’s high-resolution Retina display.
Gameplay in Flight Control Rocket unfolds much like its predecessor, challenging players to direct various different spaceships to their appropriately-colored landing area — red ships land on the red area, yellow on yellow and green on green. To direct ships, players must draw a line with their finger from the ship to where they would like it to go. If this line will put the ship on course for landing, it will turn grey and, in a twist on the original game’s formula, also accelerate. Further embellishments on the original game’s formula are provided by the much wider variety of ships which come in for landing — some split apart when touched, some shoot out ships in front of them while on course, others drop static drones which must be independently directed to the proper landing area. Players can also build up a score multiplier by landing numerous ships of the same color in succession.
In order to make up for the increased complexity of gameplay provided by this wider range of ships, the game no longer ends when players cause a single crash. Rather, they have three lives to use, and can even continue their game past this point in an “arcade game” style by spending soft currency, which is collected through play or acquired in larger quantities via in-app purchase.
The game is built for social play, with support for both Game Center and EA’s own Origin service. While it’s unusual for an EA title to support anything other than Origin, as the original Flight Control was a big hit on the Game Center leaderboards, it makes sense for Firemint to include support. Leaderboard functionality is well-implemented, with a post-game summary informing players of how many points they need to get in order to beat their closest Game Center rival’s score, along with their worldwide ranking. Players may also tweet their scores using iOS 5’s built-in Twitter functionality as well as brag on Facebook.
Unlike its predecessor, Flight Control Rocket features an in-game shop where players may purchase various “Bots” to make their game experience easier. Bots also earn experience, level up and become more effective through use. This process may also be accelerated by purchasing Power Crystal items, which temporarily increase the rate of experience gain. In order to use their abilities, Bots must be powered through the use of Battery items, which must also be purchased from the shop. Given the potential power of some of the bots, there’s a slight risk of the game having an element of “pay to win” about it, though all bots and items may be acquired through normal play — just at a significantly slower rate.
Flight Control Rocket is currently the No. 51 most popular paid app and the No. 60 top paid iPad app. In the paid games genre, it ranks at No. 29 on iPhone and No. 37 on iPad. These low-ish rankings are something of a surprise given EA’s apparent keenness to promote the game based on its Retina visuals for the new iPad, though it’s possible that Flight Control’s most loyal players prefer to play on the iPhone where the game was originally born.