Command the sky in Chillingo's captivating flyer.
We don't know if Chillingo's Air Mail will be as huge as the publisher's outstanding Cut the Rope, but we sure hope this is the start of a successful franchise. Developed by N-fusion Interactive, this gorgeous title is a cool mix between Pilotwings and Crimson Skies, minus the dogfighting. It's exactly what iPhone and iPad gaming needs, though as you'll learn, it doesn't quite live up to its grand potential.
Air Mail takes place in a fictional universe where peaceful island folks come under attack from an evil group known as the Verikai, who subsequently ground couriers known as Island Fliers save one, a young boy or girl (it's your choice) who takes to the skies to fight back, not with machine guns or bombs, but with ace flying skills.
To that end, most of the game involves completing missions for various characters within a time limit, and the list includes delivering weapons, sabotaging the Verikai and rescuing different characters, though you'll also do things that seemingly have little impact on the war effort, like unloading fish nets, collecting dragon bones, gathering crystals and dropping confetti.
That said, the majority of these objectives are essentially the same, but with subtle differences (rings of confetti versus plain old rings, for instance), but the game remains highly entertaining, in large part because you'll want to finish in the best times possible, and most importantly, it's just a lot of fun. The controls work surprisingly well, regardless of whether you go with virtual buttons (our preferred method), tilt (prepare for a learning curve) and advanced, where you can bust out extra maneuvers, such as a barrel roll.
Meanwhile, Air Mail looks exquisite. N-fusion Interactive did an outstanding job bringing this attention-grabbing world to life, complete with vast blue oceans, tropical islands lush with greenery, sprawling cities and rolling mountains. What's more, the sky reflects off the water, and looks especially cool during the afternoon and evening, when you'll see the sunset, moon and stars. Suffice to say, there's an abundance of eye candy, and thanks to retina display support for the new iPad, we're proud to call Air Mail one of the tablet's most visually-arresting titles.
On that note, the app falters a bit. As we previously mentioned, the majority of these missions feel similar. While not terrible per se, we just wanted more. There are so many directions the creators could go with this concept and they never flesh out the experience. It doesn't need air combat per se, but a more diverse collection of missions would boost the appeal.
What's more, the story failed to grab us. There's a cool foundation in place with the Verikai running amok, but the narrative definitely lacks a hook, that extra something special to make us care about the characters and sticking it to the bad guys. Instead, we zoned out during cut scenes and focused squarely on the gameplay.
Not that that's a bad thing, of course. Air Mail could've been exceptional, but as it stands, the game will just have to settle for being great, with beautiful art work, tight controls and fun exploration/time-based play. Hop into the cockpit, strap in and take flight.
Review code provided by Chillingo.
What's Hot: Exceptional graphics with retina display support, tight touch and tilt controls, entertaining missions, exploring the world at one's leisure.
What's Not: Missions feel the same, no multiplayer mode, lackluster story, over-the-top voice acting.