It’s surprising that we don’t see that many flight games on iOS often (just ask the locals), so you repeatedly have to take your chances on them and hope for the best. Air Mail [$2.99] sits on top of the pile, and manages to be fun in ways you may not expect.

In Air Mail, you play as a small child who has his (or her) sights set on being able to fly. To achieve that goal, you have an instructor who helps you learn to fly with small goals, and with voice commands in a stereotypical Asian voice. The instructor is fortunately optional, as he tends to be more annoying than anything providing such useful instructions such as “Fly To The Objective!"

It’s not as if the objectives are particularly stimulating either, as they mostly involve picking up packages, flying through rings (or other objects) or even occasionally dropping off packages. The element of exploration found in these levels is actually not bad, so it would have been nice to see the missions expand more on that. As it is, Explore mode was my mode of choice while playing because it allows you to just fly freely for as long as you wish without restrictions or missions to worry about.

Elaborating on the missions, it’s often difficult to be sure of where you’re supposed to be going in Air Mail because of the poor draw distance. For technical reasons it’s easy to see why you can’t see too far ahead, but you also can’t see your objective unless you’re directly in front of it. The mini-map does serve as a sort of crutch for this issue, it just doesn’t help enough.

The reason for the unfortunate draw distance in the game is because of the great visuals that are your plane and the environments you can fly in. The art is of high quality, with locales that are pretty impressive so long as you can look past the technical downsides. Performance never seems to hitch though, even while playing on an iPhone 4.

A fairly nice amount of attention was paid to the controls in Air Mail because you have three options to choose from, and they all work well enough in their own right. Touch has you swiping sliders across the screen to adjust the accelerator and rudder (works better on iPad than on a smaller screen), while tilting can feel a bit looser until you get the hang of it. Once you’ve mastered those, you can then try the advanced option, which combines the two others into a bit of a mess unless you can master it.

Still, it is nice to see plenty of option for control in this type of game (especially with the variety of devices out now), as just one won’t please everyone. Without a touch option, I would not have touched the game with a ten foot pole, simply because I don’t find the accelerometer to have precise enough input for my liking. The advanced control requires a good bit of practice to get it right, but should eventually be your control of choice.

If there’s an important takeaway from Air Mail, it’s that flight games don’t need to have great objectives to be fun. Being able to just fly without worrying about missions is relaxing, and not what I really expected out of the game, but I’m also not one to complain when having a good time.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarNone
  • Krautboy

    I had an awesome time with this game,it's like flying in a studio ghibli movie.
    I'd give it more than 3,5 stars but i tend to disagree with the star rating alot lately,matter of taste i guess. Touch controls work like a charm,advanced controls require tilting and tilt controls have never worked for me. Your objectives are always shown as stars when you open your map. There is an exploration mode where you if you find all the scrolls unlocks new paint for your plane and let you get comfortable with all the twists and turns and secret hideaways so you'll do better in mission mode. A five star rating for each mission provides some replayabilty. As IAP there is a cheat code for a dollar wich unlocks all paint,missions and ghost mode so even the little ones can fly without crashing immediatly. My little cousin loves it.
    For me one of the best games this year.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Hopper/1238691947 Paul Hopper

    this is a really well done flying game with awesome graphics my only gripe is the lack of a sensitivity slider for the analog controls. i prefer a controller in flying games like this and in this game the lack of a slider to adjust its sensitivity means really really twitch controls if not using tilt controls.

  • http://twitter.com/EightRooks Matthew Lee

    Okay, I'm going to be that guy - this came across as a pretty mediocre review, and read as if the writer had only played for about half an hour. "So, you're like this kid, and you want to fly and stuff, and you fly around in a plane and do things" - seriously? It's far from a perfect game, I agree, but the campaign felt solid enough to me, with some great attempts to dress up the fairly typical gameplay. Get to the battlefield levels when you're starting up gunboats to help fend off an Ace Combat-style superfortress, for example - sure, there's not much actually going on in the world and the levels are pretty small but the art design, the music and the way the maps are laid out was plenty damn stimulating for me. You make it sound as if tooling around playing the free roam or time trial modes is all there is to do. There are some perfectly valid points here, and I'm not accusing anyone of making things up, but the standard of writing is way below most of what TA puts out.

    • http://twitter.com/Rage_boi Vince

       Totally agree with you. Someone isn't taking his job seriously.

  • Rothgarr

    I LOVE this game, I can't believe you only gave this game 3.5 stars.

    Regarding the draw distance, is it dependent on the device? I ask because I just loaded up a map and there isn't a single area I can not see form the middle. If I fly to the very end of the map, I can still see all the islands on the far opposite end of the map. I do happen to be playing on a new iPad. Did you know you could turn off the fog and bloom effects? Maybe that would help you. As for objectives, there are beacons that show up form time to time to help you and you can see them from the other side of the map. And I can see the arrows/indicators from way far away. It must be device dependent or something...

    As for controls, I think the touch controls are too twitchy. I thought I would not like the game as a result. I gave the tilt controls a chance -- it took a few levels but after that I found them to be precise and I could pull off maneuvers that I could never do with the touch controls.

  • bigrand1

    After reading the review, it pretty much sounded like it wasn't that good of a game, but checking the comments here, Matthew Lee made some good points, and after reading Rothgarr's comments, now I've decided to check this out! Took me off the fence, so to speak. Thanks, guys.  

  • http://profiles.google.com/ethancathcart ethan cathcart

    This game deserves more than 3.5 stars.

  • jcifrit

    DISREGARD this review....this game is fantastic (I've played thought story mode and some of explore mode)
    There aren't really issues with draw distance either and I'm on an iPod touch 4......
    Great game, terrible review.

  • http://intraterra.blogspot.in/ DAyara

    Only 3.5!!!!!???????

  • jeffyg3

    This game is EASILY one of the better games I've played this year on my mobile devices. The exploration, gameplay, and overall feel of the game on the iPad 2 is excellent. Definitly deserves more than 3.5 stars.

  • http://twitter.com/reefshark81 Patrick

    As others already pointed out, don't "listen" to this review. Probably done in 5 minutes on the go...

  • Jim Harley

    I really enjoyed this game, it had a Nintendo feel in my opinion. I was sad to see it got only 3.5 stars, very underrated.

  • http://www.jshamblin.com J.Shamblin

    This game is so much fun! And the art direction is fantastic! I disagree with this review. It deserves more than a 3.5 rating.

    I didn't have any problems finding the targets on any level. First, the game starts you off in the right direction, so if you just fly straight, you'll find something. Second, the targets are lit up nicely with bright circles, arrows, and beams of light. I didn't have any trouble seeing them from a distance (on the new iPad). And finally, if you get disoriented, you can always look on the map during the mission and see where you are in relation to the targets.

    The controls are perfectly fine too. There's a few control schemes to choose from and you can customize each one.

    This is easily one of my favorite games on my iPad. I hope people are not turned off by the slightly above average game rating. This is one of the better games available for the iOS.

Air Mail™ Reviewed by Talor Berthelson on . Rating: 3.5