Before I get started here, let me offer two disclaimers: First off, the guys from NimbleBit asked me to make it very clear that this game is a work in progress and absolutely everything is subject to change. Traditionally, NimbleBit does extensive beta testing and implements tons of user feedback, Pocket Planes is nowhere near that stage left. Secondly, this is a very difficult game to describe, as I'm really not sure what to compare it to or what genre to classify it in. It definitely has elements of time management, but seems substantially more strategic than your typical time management game. Pocket Planes is definitely a much more "gamery" game, which even has NimbleBit a little worried with how the game will do as free to play games typically require a very large mainstream casual player base to be successful.

With that out of the way, let's chat Pocket Planes.

At the highest level, Pocket Planes is a game of ferrying people and cargo around the world. Each city is home to its own airport, where players will find anxious passengers and cargo waiting to go somewhere else. You must manage your own budding airline, starting at the very small regional level and eventually expanding into a global empire of complete air superiority with planes flying to even the most exotic of locations.

You increase your fleet of planes using what we'll call "Plane Bucks" for the sake of this article, although NimbleBit admits they've yet to decide on a witty name for the IAP currency. Also, since IAP is a bit of a sore subject around here for some of our readers, keep in mind that NimbleBit intends to balance the game just like Tiny Tower and Pocket Frogs, in that they aim to make the game fun, even if you never buy a single IAP item. Just like Tower Bucks, players will have plenty of opportunities to rack up Plane Bucks via various in-game goals, promotions, and other things.

The in-game planes are not only totally customizable via various options (such as color) but they're also all based on real-world statistics when it comes to range, speed, capacity, and the other values under that make the whole simulation work under the hood. Of course they're named something different, but aviation fans should find lots of very familiar planes to load their fleet up with.

With your planes, you'll initially have access to a small pool of local airports. The world map is still in flux, but say for instance you could start off in Los Angeles, where you might initially have access to a few airports in the area, let's say Tucson, Phoenix, and San Francisco. (Keep in mind these cities might not be in the final game, I'm just using this as an example.)

Starting in Los Angeles, you'll have people and cargo that want to go to these different airports, the strategy of the game comes in with how you do this, as flying your planes cost coins the farther you go. So, you could potentially load your plane up with people who want to go to Phoenix and Tucson, potentially making the flight a better bang for the buck since you fly from Los Angeles with tons of people, then dump them off at two very nearby airports. Doing this would net more profit than just flying a couple people up to San Francisco, which is farther away.

As you earn more coins, you're able to buy access to additional airports. Doing so not only unlocks additional destinations to pick up (and drop off) people and cargo, but will also open new flight routes through that airport. With this example we've been using, you'd eventually unlock cities across the southwest towards the east, then eventually get a flight path to Europe, where you'll be able to start unlocking airports over there.

With each new airport, you're potentially unlocking much more efficient and direct flight routes, allowing you to turn even greater profits by offering much more direct flights to destinations. It seems like you can get really obsessive too about your strategy with buying both planes with Plane Bucks and unlocking airports with coins. Also, the game will totally let you lose coins if you're not playing smart and efficiently using your fleet. But, don't worry, you can never go negative.

NimbleBit explained several different viable play styles, such as investing in large and slow planes and doing long haul flights trying to carve your niche in the world as an international airline. Alternatively (or additionally) you could have a fleet of small fast planes to carry passengers that want to go on a long-haul flight to a central "hub" of sorts, where you keep your huge slow planes to do a long-haul flight for tons of coins.

It's surprising how deep this game feels, even at this post-prototype pre-beta phase. I'm sure it won't be long before NimbleBit starts engaging the community and more information on Pocket Planes comes flowing out. If all goes as planned, Pocket Planes will be released sometime this summer.

  • NaeemTHM

    Meh...I'll wait for Zynga's version: Portable Aircraft.

    • http://twitter.com/touchgameplay TouchGamePlay

      Wrong Title Dude - Zynga did renamed it in the last Second so they won`t get sued by NimbleBit. It`s now called ... Flying Height. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/jinchaos Jinchao Sun

        Actually, it will be called "Dream Flight" according to their "Dream" series. Or "Flying with Friends". :)

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5FLRQI2X2LU3IHMCG7HEAEFD5I Cat Astrophy

      As long as it's not appointment gaming like this.

  • http://twitter.com/touchgameplay TouchGamePlay

    This does look as great as it does sound. Looking forward to it.

  • Ervin Campillo

    This looks like an actual game...I would've wagered they would show something totally different to throw Zynga off.

  • http://twitter.com/ragashingo Brian Wiggins

    Looks great. I'll buy some IAP when it's out.

  • TomCrown

    Props for seeing Saskatoon on the board : > ), maybe that will convince Apple to open a store here, the last province left without an Apple store. : (

    • http://www.facebook.com/riolu.the.pokemon Warren Custer

      Saskatoon is my favorite city!!

  • http://profiles.google.com/yooooung Young !

    Wow, this is the WIP preview?  Looks pretty polished

  • theundertow

    I've been waiting for a spiritual successor to Aerobiz Supersonic - looking forward to trying this one.

  • http://profiles.google.com/sokolov22 Derek Chin

    OH MY WORD.  IS THIS AEROBIZ?!

    (That is an EXCITED exclamation, not a "they are cloning it" one.)

  • http://twitter.com/spacecowgoesmoo Taylor Calderone

    I thought they said they were going to be more careful about showing unfinished games?

  • mclifford82

    Looks really interesting.  I just wish all the characters didn't run around looking like they have Down's Syndrome.  They all remind me of Jimmy from South Park.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ryan-Schuster/1653840742 Ryan Schuster

    My first thought on reading this was, cool. My second thought was, darn it, they've given Zynga way too much time to steal the concept. My third thought was, I wonder how many people are going to comment on Zynga ripping this game off too?

  • http://twitter.com/Inaba_kun Inaba-kun

    I've no time for freeium games, they're just grind fests designed to sell in app purchases. 
    I'm also sick of iOS developers drawing all their assets at Commodore 64 resolution. It was mildly amusing for a while, but that time has long, long past. Draw nice looking high-res graphics, it's not difficult and doesn't take much longer. You just have to give a damn and not be so lazy.

    • http://profiles.google.com/sokolov22 Derek Chin

      As someone in the industry and familiar with pixel art, I can tell you it's not a matter of laziness.

      Doing pixel art of this type for memory limited devices like iPhones may also be a memory saving measure for performance and download size reasons.

      • danielwood

        The way pixel art is done these days you are not going to be saving much memory if any. There might be a saving in download size but again it won't be much.

        That said, you certainly can't call pixel art the lazy option. Getting it to look good probably takes far longer than some other art styles.

      • http://profiles.google.com/sokolov22 Derek Chin

        Well, I looked at the data for Kairosoft's games, for example,  And their character art seems to use interchangeable parts to create the illusion of more unique sprites without necessarily increasing memory usage (texture or download size).  One could do that sort of thing with non-pixel art as well, but it's more complicated.

      • http://twitter.com/Inaba_kun Inaba-kun

        If you're in the industry you'd know that memory is not much of an issue on iOS as even the ancient devices still have 256mb of RAM, and the newer ones have double that. A simple 2D game will fit within that, even with all the OS bloat, many, many, many times over.

        Making pixel art is incredibly easy, I did it myself for years back in the 16-bit era. Making modern game assets, with the full production chain going from Z-Brush/Mudbox into Maya/Max with all the requisite diff, spec, norm, and gloss maps really is a lot of work.  I don't expect that for an iOS game, just well done simple 3D assets or beautifully drawn high-res 2D assets.  Dream Heights looked awful to my eyes, despite being high-res. For good 2D art, see something like Odin Sphere or Professor Layton. 

      • CHannum

        LMAO. I get over a dozen app terminations by the OS every single day from that 256MB on my current gen touch (not so ancient, huh?) that according to your genius is enough to fit simple 2D games "many, many, many times over".

        Yes, some of those terminations are 3D, but the majority are 2D because retina assets chew up memory, and detailed 2D chews it up like nobody's business.

        But, want to know what has been rock solid for memory? The many pixel art games I have.

      • MidianGTX

        Face it buddy, you got out liked.

    • http://twitter.com/try2bcool69 Jay G

      Really?  Compare Tiny Tower to Dream Heights...the graphics are sharper and more detailed in Dream Heights, but it doesn't have a soul the way TT does.
      There is also absolutely no need to buy any IAP in their last game, it's meant to be played over a long time, and I've never felt the need to buy anything that would speed it up.

    • Briker Ed

      I'm happy to inform you that during all the time I've spent playing Tiny Towers, which is to say since last August I think, I've never ever felt the need to make any IAP purchases whatsoever, as you can legitimately earn the 'premium' currency just by playing the game. I did, however, make some IAP purchases as a thank you to the developers for making a game that's perhaps been one of the two games I to date still keep on my iPhone and play. 

      Since it does, in a way, follow the grind + timers pattern of what most Facebook games seem to have, I was quite surprised to still find it a very enjoyable pastime and something I hit up couple a times a day. 

      On topic of Zynga's Dream Heights, I've tried it and personally find the overall graphic style to be less tight, more cluttered (as in harder to "read"), slower and with a whole less of soul. On the other hand, I've never been a fan of vector/flash style graphics and animation, so that's completely a personal preference there. Didn't manage to stick with it long enough to tell you whether you can or can not earn 'premium' currency by playing. Haven't discovered it's possible through my play time, so maybe someone else can give insight.

      Oh and before anyone starts making silly accusations, this hasn't been a sponsored message, lol xD 

      In other news, after seeing the post about Pocket Planes, I'm now excited and giddy as a girl! :P

      • http://twitter.com/try2bcool69 Jay G

        I think the reason it's better than Facebook games is because you don't have to listen the incessant whining about the game that your neighbors do every time they miss a giveaway item on the wall.  Or accusing players of cheating.  Or complaining when the game isn't working right. Or Facebook revamps the site layout so you can't find things any more.  Or...you get the point...

    • Matthew Aijala

      The main reason game developers like the great 3 people over at nimble bit use these graphics is to conserve memory. You obviously have no idea how hard it is to make a game like this with only a given amount of memory. Sure if it were a game for the xbox that was on a disk they  would be able to do it but it is extremely different  for the iPhone. The 8 bit graphics take up so much less memory than hd graphics. Please do your research before you insult the hard working developers who make these games. I find it extremely disrespectful to call theses people lazy when you obviously have no idea how hard it is to make a game like this with only a small team of 3. Have a nice day

  • Lenny Magico

    I love Tiny Tower, but this looks brilliant, probably gonna loose a lot of time with this :P

  • http://www.mobilenations.com/ Simon Sage

    It looks like Now Boarding.

  • http://twitter.com/jicon John Edwards

    So...  basically 1/5 of the awesomeness that was TT - Transport Tycoon back in 1994...  I miss that game, and will play this for some of that nostalgia.

    • Clyndon

      I agree. But what I'm realy waiting for is just that: a great Transport Tycoon game on iOS.....

    • maniacfive

      Hah! My first thought was to say "in before someone says, 'whatevs let zynga rip off this its just a clone or flight simulator/transport tycoon anyway'

      Not that you are saying that but you know what i mean :) anyway, i shall look forward to this. Enjoyed tiny tower although havent checked it like i used to since ebuilding my last floor and getting all the dream jobs.

      Also John, can i suggest you check out Open TTD. If you still have your TTD disks it can use all the original TTD art and music assets but with some notable improvements to the core game. Pass through bus and truck depots for one. Works on windows and mac too. I have some epically large transport networks i still play. Was building away at the weekend in fact.

  • monyo17

    People whining about pixel Art.... You all know that games are made with more content than just graphics right?

    Honestly im sick of all the ios games running on the unreal engine. Nothing but clones with different costumes and guns.

    I want to see more cel shaded stuff.

    Anyways, this looks good, just hope they release it before the clone empire releases another ....uh... Clone.

  • http://www.meadiciona.com/charles_anjos Charles Albert

    Hey, great! Another crapium game! What a beautiful visual wasted with pseudo-gameplay.

    • White Lights

      Do not play it then, geez.

  • http://twitter.com/Mostly_Filled Lee

    Good thing it's coming out during the summer. I recall losing entire days obsessing over TT. As a teacher, I humbly request Just Plane Fun (or whatever) is released once school is done for the year. 

    • NetscapePizza

      How could you? Tiny Tower isn't even a game, none of your choice in it have any impact on anything.

  • http://twitter.com/Mostly_Filled Lee

    Good thing it's coming out during the summer. I recall losing entire days obsessing over TT. As a teacher, I humbly request Just Plane Fun (or whatever) is released once school is done for the year.

  • homerjay

    I wonder what Zynga's ripoff will be called?

  • http://twitter.com/StarkGumbus James Preston

    im from zynga and what is this

  • http://twitter.com/riChchestMat Chris Matchett

    Is that a hijacker piloting the plane in the 2nd screenshot?

  • NetscapePizza

    Will this one actually be a game and not a glorified screensaver like Tiny Tower

  • http://twitter.com/xhunterko Robert C. Jr.

    So it's basically a space trader set on a planet and with no pve. That's okay with me.