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Air Traffic Controller 2007

For: Mobile

It's up, up and away

Product: Air Traffic Controller 2007 | Developer: Lunaforte | Publisher: Lunaforte | Format: Mobile | Genre: Simulation | Players: 1 | Format: J2ME | File size: 160KB | Reviewed on: 6680 other handsets | Version: Europe
Air Traffic Controller 2007 Mobile, thumbnail 1
We play games, by and large, because we like the fantasy element. Project Gotham Racing, for instance, enables us to experience – a smidgen – what it might be like to tear around the city streets in a sports car with scant regard for the law. Likewise, FIFA 07 is the closest we'll ever come to scoring the winning goal in the cup final at Wembley.

One thing we've never dreamt about doing is directing a 747, inbound from New York, to land on runway four. Oh, and with a six-knot head wind out of the north east.

Nope, never. And if we had, frankly, air traffic controller doesn't seem like a career that's so far beyond reach that we wouldn't have made an effort to become the real thing upon leaving school.

It's like saying you want to be a lawyer. Yes, it might require seriously hard study, but the chances of making it as a barrister are much higher than that of being the next Lewis Hamilton, for instance.

Rather than making Air Traffic Controller 2007 a less appealing prospect to play, though, it's made it strangely even more compelling. There's a definite sense of wanting to prove to yourself that you could, if you so decided, make a successful career change.

Obviously the actual job of air traffic controlling is far more complex than a mobile phone game could ever be, but you'll be sucked in to such an extent that you'll not care.

Playing as the air traffic controller of an anonymous airport, it's up to you to direct the planes entering your patch of airspace to where they want to go. They'll either indicate to you that they want to head off in a particular direction, represented by the letters A to D on the four sides of your handset's screen, or that they want to land on one of the runways for which you're responsible.

By ensuring that the planes – and, by extension, their passengers – get to their desired destination, you earn your paycheque with cash rewards for each satisfied flight.

It sounds too simple to be much more than the basis for a short-lived game. But Air Traffic Controller 2007 has got that X-factor, that certain something that enables it to lift off and enter pocket gaming's stratosphere.

It's certainly the most unexpected success we've come across in a while. The key to the game's brilliance lies in the foolproof controls being combined with a challenge so unassumingly fiendish that you can't help but be hooked.

To those controls: as complex a task as air traffic controlling undoubtedly is, this is a one-thumb game. You select individual planes by pressing up and down on your handset's thumbpad, scrolling between each aircraft presently on-screen.

To set a plane on a new course, you press left or right to turn it. Once given a direction, the airplane will continue flying straight in that direction, influenced solely by the prevailing wind conditions, until it either flies off screen, lands on the runway you guided it to, or collides mid-air with another aircraft.

It's the latter option that's the least preferable, but once you've got a half-dozen planes on screen at once, each headed in a different direction or wanting to land on a single runway, it's a prospect that becomes frighteningly likely. If you aren't aware of what every plane on screen is doing, the situation can turn irretrievably bad before you've even realised that your attention lapsed and you've made a mistake.

In that respect, this is an unforgiving game that'll test you thoroughly. In fact, it's probably the most mentally demanding games we've ever played on mobile.

So, while Air Traffic Controller 2007 might not be the most glamorous virtual pastime around, the balance of compelling and addictive play, intuitive controls and a challenge that'll keep you coming back for more is brilliant.

And, importantly, it keeps being brilliant, staying fresh and fun. The changeable weather and wind conditions ensure that you never feel as though you're playing the same level over and over. Offering an experience that's out of the ordinary yet somehow retaining its attainable air, Air Traffic Controller 2007 is refreshing and entertaining in turns.
Air Traffic Controller 2007
Reviewer photo
Mike Abolins | 5 April 2007
A deceptively deep game, Air Traffic Controller 2007 is a bona fide classic
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