Air Mail Hands-On Preview

Although Apple featured Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy at their iPad press event yesterday, there’s another iOS flight sim at GDC that we thought was much more fun. Air Mail, from N-Fusion and Chillingo, is an adorable Pilotwings-style flying game with an epic fantasy story to match its stunning visuals.

Developer N-Fusion designed Air Mail with Japanese animes like Porco Rosso in mind. The result is a bright, friendly visual style with expressive characters and fantastic environments. You play as a young pilot (a boy or a girl) who starts off delivering air mail in a scenic ocean town. Soon, though, the town becomes embroiled in a war, and you have to tip the balance– but not how you might think.

Mission variety is a big part of Air Mail, and though you start off with simple deliveries around town, you’ll also be given clever tasks like scaring pigeons away from landmarks. When the war starts, you don’t strap machine guns to your seaplane– instead, you’ll be stealing ammo and bringing it to your allies to use. After the war, you’ll be able to launch fireworks instead of missiles.

The environments in Air Mail are wonderfully designed, like in the Glyder series. For example, the coastal town has a giant statue you can fly through, plus a number of hidden coves and passages. Since you are flying a seaplane, you’ll be able to land on the water during missions.

Besides the main story mode, there is a an exploration mode with no time limit and lots of hidden collectibles, and a competitive delivery mode where you can earn an online high score. Control-wise, the game is loaded with options, like tilt controls, a virtual joystick, and advanced “stunt” controls that lets you pull off more complex moves in the air.

Air Mail looks to us like an excellent, console-quality flying game with great visuals, a genuine story, and lots of challenging, varied levels. We’re more excited about this game than almost anything else we’ve seen at GDC. Air Mail will be available on the App Store soon, possibly in the next few months.