Air Mail™

★★★★★ App Store Best of 2012 ★★★★★
Included in the 'Showpiece Games' category

★★★★★ Featured as an iPad Editor's Choice game on the App Store! ★★★★★

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Air Mail Review

In 2009, we dipped and soared with the Glyder series of games from Glu Mobile. At the time, we raved that the iPhone’s tilt controls and 3D graphics made for a sublime flying experience, but Glyder 1 and 2 are no longer available on the App Store. Fortunately, Chillingo and N-Fusion’s Air Mail fits the gap perfectly, and for the first time in years, we felt the joy of flight on iOS.

There have been other successful flying games on iOS, like the dogfighting sim Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy, but nothing available today matches the charm of Air Mail. Air Mail is inspired by lofty anime like Porco Rosso, which combines colorful characters and environments with iconic early 20th century technology like biplanes and zeppelins.

Balloon power.

In Air Mail, you play as a young boy or girl who gets a job delivering mail by sea plane, but very few of the game’s levels actually have you picking up and dropping letters. Very quickly, you’ll engage in a series of brief missions (all are around 2 minutes long) that will have you chasing pigeons from rooftops, harvesting fish from the sea, and igniting fireworks to raise the town’s spirits.

Then, war is declared. Instead of placing a couple of machine guns on your plane like in most other flight sims, Air Mail takes a refreshingly unique approach to combat. You’ll sabotage the enemy fleet and help the resistance, but only by stealing ammo from flight decks, or clipping the cables holding their airships together. So without firing a single bullet, you’ll become a war hero through your flying skills alone.

None of this could work without a sensible control scheme, and Air Mail offers three. You can use a virtual joystick, tilt the entire device, or employ a complicated “advanced” mode that lets you pull off extra moves like barrel rolls. We preferred the basic tilt mode, and had no trouble navigating our creaky plane through narrow alleyways and under rocky bridges.

Firefly.

Air Mail is also a delight to look at and listen to. The colorful graphics perfectly match the anime films it’s inspired by, and the music is professional film or TV quality. The voice acting can be a bit grating, especially the wizened Japanese sensei who almost sounds like a caricature, but some of the supporting characters sound genuinely enthusiastic when you perform well in a mission.

In addition to the main story mode (which is punctuated by windowed and poorly animated cutscenes), Air Mail offers a few fun bonuses. There’s exploration mode, where you can kick back without a time limit and search for bonus collectibles, and a few delivery missions that you can replay for a high score. You can also replay each story mission for a five-star rating, but there’s no multiplayer mode to compete against other players.

Despite a few very minor issues– namely, the cutscenes and some of the voice acting– we loved this bright, beautiful flying game. It has a charming story, even if it’s not always well-delivered, and the gameplay is everything you could ask for in a casual flight sim. Whether you’re igniting celebratory fireworks, defending your town from attack, or barreling through a giant dragon skeleton, Air Mail is packed with moments that will put a smile on your face.

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Game of the Month, May 2012: Air Mail

Nary a month goes by without a number of great iOS games being released, and May was no different. New entries in terrific series of first-person shooters, fighting games, platformers, and strategy games all hit this month, and received wide acclaim and Must Have scores. But a new flying game from N-fusion Interactive earned our Game of the Month award for May. It’s called Air Mail, and it’s an absolute delight.

Air Mail puts you in the shoes of a child who gets a job piloting an airplane to deliver mail. All is well and good until war breaks out, and everyone has to start doing their part to aid the war effort. Here’s where Air Mail separates itself from most other flying games: instead of participating in the actual battles, you help the resistance by going on missions that have you doing things like sabotaging enemy planes and stealing ammo.

The production values are first-rate, with lots of stunning landscapes to navigate and stirring music to drive you onward. They’ve really nailed the controls as well, offering three different options that let you fly using tilt, an onscreen d-pad, or an advanced set-up that allows for trick moves like barrel rolls. And when you’ve finished the story mode, you can do compete in a high-score mode, or simply cruise the levels at your leisure in explore mode. It all adds up to a gaming experience that we’d recommend to anyone.

Our runner-up for Game of the Month is LostWinds 2: Winter of the Melodias, an excellent port of a WiiWare platformer of the same name. In this game, you run, jump, and solve puzzles, all while using your ability to control the wind with the swipe of a finger. LostWinds 2 looks fantastic, controls well, and all but bursts at the seams with charm. Pick this one up if you like to kick back and enjoy a good platformer.

So congratulations to N-fusion and Frontier Developments for making two of the best games in the month of May! Also be sure to check out the other Must Have games released last month: Bejeweled HD, Gene Effect, Robbery Bob, N.O.V.A. 3, Escape from Age of Monsters, The King of Fighters-i 2012, and Imperium Galactica 2.