Pilot’s Path is the second most addictive game I’ve played on iOS, second only to my beloved Puzzle Craft. Part open world mission game, part real time strategy and part arcade style flight simulator, there’s no limit to the hours of fun you could devote to Pilot’s Path.
In Pilot’s Path you pilot a helicopter using the touch screen. You can get missions from your local kingpin or sheik and complete those deliveries, or fly around collecting valuable cargo to pay for helicopter upgrades, or just roam the skies opening up the map. You’ll probably spend your first few hours of game play beefing up your helicopter. I found adding cargo space and fuel capacity to be the most valuable, because then you can earn more money on each flight, and go further without crashing. Once you get some speed, you’re unstoppable.
The helicopter controls are so easy and natural, you’ll feel like you could really fly a Black Hawk. Military grade cockpits just have two joysticks, right? Touching the left side of the screen steers your helicopter and touching the right controls your altitude. It’s even more natural because the game is forgiving to your touch. Wherever you place your thumbs, Pilot’s Path will make the virtual joysticks appear, so you don’t have to cram your fingers into the corners of the screen. Be sure to watch your meters though so you don’t fly too high or run out of fuel. You’ll need a gentle touch to make sure you take off and land smoothly (and to make sure you don’t land on a tree). Your shadow is very helpful to let you know how much space you’ll take up when you touch ground. Sure, you can crash into mountains or power lines, but it’s not too painful. You lose your cargo but you start fresh with a full tank of gas. If you’re about to crash, the edges of the screen glow red, the traditional video game sign of impending death. If you’re concentrating, you’ll probably catch the warning before it’s too late, but if you do crash it’s a reminder not to rush. You can also earn experience points by performing stunts like flying under bridges.
What makes Pilot’s Path somewhat of a real time strategy game is an autopilot feature that lets you set a mark and the autopilot will fly you to that spot on the map. Autopilot is a strategic feature because it takes less fuel than flying manually, and it’s also a nice break where you can have a sip of coffee or pet your cat while the helicopter flies there in real time. You can use autopilot to fly to your mission objectives, fly to cargo pickups or just fly to empty spots on the map to explore, and then fly back to base. Am I being lazy by letting autopilot fly for me? I consider it multi-tasking. I’m still flying right now while I finish writing this. I guess there’s a left brained part of me that would rather just set my course and get the job done than put in the time flying there myself. You can still cancel autopilot any time if you find an island you want to fly to or a treasure you want to pick up. Autopilots can be purchased for 100 gold each. I generally leave the base with two autopilots, one for a trip to the destination and one for the way back. Get three or four if you think you’ll be exploring a lot. You can also purchase extra fuel tanks and extra repair kits for 100 gold each, adding more strategy to your flight plans. If you’re planning to go extra far, carry five to six fuel tanks just to be safe.
The graphics are beautiful. The overhead view of the island is sort of like 8-bit NES or 386 PC games, which is both retro cool and keeps things simple. The sound is basically the noise of your propeller, but there’s a subtle musical score underneath. That works for me. I don’t want to hear music. I just want to fly. Sometimes the music slows down a bit when you’re flying through heavy graphics, but again the music is not important. There are other realistic sound effects when you’re in the mechanic’s shop or refueling. The clanking of metal or the glug, glug, glug of a fuel pump are nice touches.
There are in-game purchase options if you don’t want to wait to collect your upgrades the old fashioned way. You can also buy gifts for your hot mechanic. I don’t really see the point in that, but if some gamers take the game so seriously they need to keep their fake mechanic happy, more power to them.
There’s also a way to link Pilot’s Path to an iOS enabled TV and use your mobile device as a controller. I’d love to try that but unfortunately I don’t have an iOS set top.
Pilot’s Path is that perfect combination of achievement-oriented gaming where you think you’re just going to play for a few minutes, and then you get caught up in a mission, or wanting to upgrade your helicopter. The game makes you feel like you’re doing important work, not wasting time on pointless quests. Hey, I have tourists to rescue and ammo to deliver. Don’t bother me with your phone calls and e-mails! Get it during the launch sale for $0.99 before it goes up to $3.99.