Flight Control Rocket Blows Up on the PadFlight Control was such a simple, enjoyable, universally acclaimed mobile game, it compelled the boss—and I don't mean Totilo, I mean the boss—to write a review of it two years ago. He came back from his safari in the messy backcountry of video game criticism with a nice trophy, too. Me, however, I get to deal with the sequel, a gobbed-up, what-the-hell, coin-operated unhappy meal slid across the fast-food counter of the iTunes App Store.


Yeah, Flight Control Rocket offers a greater variety of aircraft (or spacecraft) with a greater variety of behavior. You can land a hell of a lot more vessels in it than its predecessor, too. Dragging a vessel into its proper landing approach also kicks it into a faster gear, which is a nice variable that helps your traffic management when things really get hairy.

But for me, a guy who has killed the clock with Flight Control on San Francisco's 10:20 redeye to Charlotte, Rocket holds very little of the charm, and none of the map variety, of its predecessor. It's hard not to see Flight Control Rocket's complicated, monetized design as anything but the thumbprint of Electronic Arts, which acquired Flight Control maker Firemint about a year ago.

Your job is to land spacecraft on a galactic cruiser and, let me tell you, it is the same goddamn galactic cruiser, same three runways, every time. What's diifferent in Flight Control Rocket is you get lives. In the old game, any midair collision ended the game and started you over. That kept things frantic, but Flight Control's genius is that the challenge was not visually unmanageable. Now, having lives (or, basically, collisions) justifies dealing with a long formation of five ships flying in a line, and loitering drones, in addition to the regular aircraft looking for a safe landing strip. This clutter is a cheap way to ramp up the difficulty in compensation for the additional lives.

Run out your lives? Now you're introduced to the game's freemium bargain. You can continue your progress for a modest sum, like, 500 of whatever this virtual in-game currency is. (Don't forget to tap all the coins floating around the playing surface!) Don't have enough scratch? Of course you can buy up all the funding you need with an in-app purchase. There are bots and power-ups and bullshit you can buy that boost your coin accrual, too. So the game's biggest choice isn't the path you draw for the aircraft and managing their different behavior, it's whether to save up for a long-term score boost or extend that run you're on currently.

Flight Control Rocket may provide the same gameplay as the original Flight Control but that gameplay is far overshadowed by its surrounding pachinko-machine economy, which fixates your strategy and decisions more on how to manage it rather than directing traffic into the landing field. The same damn landing field, I might add. Even though it is nice to see aircraft kick it into gear when you tell them to land, you are missing very little if you stick with the original game the boss reviewed. Some guys get all the luck.

Flight Control Rocket [iTunes App Store]