Airport Mania 2: Wild Trips

Airport Mania 2: Wild Trips
Airport Mania 2: Wild Trips Cover
Platforms Android, iOS, Windows, OSX
Genre Air traffic strategy
Score 8  Clock score of 8
Buy from Amazon

Wikipedia says Airport Mania 2: Wild Trips' genre is "Click Management", which sounds like the category Microsoft Excel would also be filed under. But trust me, Airport Mania 2 is infinitely more fun. In the same vein as Diner Dash, Sally Spa, and all the hundreds of other click management, strategy, time management clones out there, the goal is to efficiently do something with limited resources. But Airport Mania 2 stands above the rest with high polish and attractive graphics.

Developed by Reflex Entertainment and South Wind Games, the original Airport Mania: First Flight, was a mild success for Windows and OSX in 2008. Re-released on nearly every portable platform since then (including DSiWare), they've slowly been building their airport simulator empire. Airport Mania 2, released earlier this year, is an upgrade of the original but still carries all the charm.

Airport Mania 2 is less of an airport simulator and more of an air-traffic control strategy game. Let's take a quick look at the Android version released a few weeks ago.

The basis of every Airport Mania 2 level is the same: land a bunch of planes on your runways, unload their passengers, possibly repair or gas them up or load some cargo, shuffle on new passengers and direct them to take off. It's a thankfully simple process when you're managing eight planes at once later in the game all in different stages of loading/unloading, Wild Trips quickly becomes overwhelming if you don't have a plan and a cool head.

Across nine stages and 79 levels, there's not a great deal of changes. What Airport Mania 2 does so well to keep you hooked the whole time is provide tough score challenges, polished gameplay, and a cute art style that serves both form and function. About halfway through the game I realized how much fun it was going for a "perfect" score in every stage, basically getting enough points to nab four stars, so I restarted the game and made my way through the levels again, learning new strategies and employing them for high scores. Some of the stages were honestly pretty tough, but they taught hidden lessons on how to score big.

Besides the final level in the game, it was actually the third level in the game that gave me the most challenge. This was, in theory, a very simple level to pass, if you didn't mind not getting a perfect. But I replayed it over and over, probably a dozen times, trying to hit $68,000. For some perspective, the final level in the game requires you to score nearly two million dollars to achieve perfect. But in this one level, I began working out a winning strategy: it was all about the combos.

Landing or taking off a string of planes on the same runway allows you to build a combo, easily doubling, tripling, or quadrupling the value of a plane. The catch is you only have a few seconds between landings or take offs to queue up the next plane, so you have to actually go against your intuition of simply sending off planes as fast as possible, sometimes you need to let them sit to wait for others. It's tough to do at first, but after level three and a score of $68,750, I was ready for the rest of the game.

Airport Mania 2 Making Money

You can also build up combos at a passenger gate by sending the same color plane there over and over. I guess if you're looking for a real world similarity, the different color planes might indicate a different airline, but really, this is just a fun game looking to build up some depth. Comboing gates is definitely important, but it's still more important to combo take offs.

Every plane has a patience meter that ticks down when they're circling the airport, waiting for a gate, or waiting to take off. This is what you're ultimately fighting against, and forcing a plane to sit too long will cause you to not earn any money when it actually takes off. So it's a balance of comboing and patience, and a very challenging one indeed.

The anthropomorphized planes will become visibly angrier the longer they have to wait, and the bubble, colorful art style goes a long way in not only keeping the game light-hearted, but becoming an important feature in determining who needs to take off... right now. They're so well done, I believe the developers could have probably done away with the patience meters all together and just let players rely on the planes' facial expressions. Hats off to the art team.

Airport Mania 2 Stage Select

Airport Mania 2 takes you around the world and even into outer space in the nine different airports you'll manage. Everything from seaplanes to military planes will be handled, but it's actually pretty hard to tell them apart. The game features about 20 craft, but besides one being bigger than another and generally having less patience then, there's not much to distinguish them apart. I'm not sure what they could have done in this case, but it doesn't mean a lot to me that a brand new plane has been landed for the first time when it basically looks like all the others, especially in the heat of the moment.

If I could ask for anything else, it'd be more variety and challenges throughout the game. Once you've reached about halfway mark, you've already seen pretty much every upgrade available, so it's just a matter of harder and harder levels coming your way. The location variety is nice, but that's simply the background and doesn't change the core gameplay at all. How about mixing some helicopters in, or more Air Force One/emergency pregnancy events that only come around once or twice per stage? But hey, the game kept me hooked through all 79 stages so it did something right.

Overall: 8

For being a "click management" game, Airport Mania 2: Wild Trips sure was a blast. Simple, addictive, polished gameplay laid upon some effective art makes for a real portable winner. I've already bought Air Control, a title that appears to be somewhat similar without the cutesy interface, let's just hope it is as fun as this.