Review: Airport City
Following on from its freemium success in Rule the Kingdom and My Country, Game Insight Global takes to the skies with Airport City. Can you build up an international airport with multiple destinations and aircraft? Can the app keep you interested to ensure you want to come back to play, and maybe even spend some real money to improve your building? Let's find out.
Version Reviewed: 220.127.116.11
The first thing you need to realise is that you are not just responsible for the airport. The infrastructure that supports the buildings and runways will also need to be taken care of, managed carefully, and built up to support the staff and passengers looking to fly.
Your focus will also need to reach out to airline management. You'll be scheduling flights and trips into and out of your airport to make your money. Money which will need to be spent on fuel and new aircraft, on expanding your airport and the surrounding area. Naturally you're going to be very careful with your money. It does not last long, and while you can buy in more from the in-app purchases, Airport City is not the most generous environment for anyone looking to play for free.
To help pull you through the game, you are guided through a number of missions. These start off as tutorial pieces to understand the basics of Airport City, but eventually become harder, requiring more resources and time to be achieved. For me, this linear and fixed approach takes away the spontaneity of a game like this. This isn't an open world where you can decide to focus on one aspect because you enjoy it, you're going to do exactly what the developers want you to do.
Right down to the difficult mission that needs a paid-for booster to complete unless you get very lucky.
The graphics in Airport City are very functional. The game takes on an isometric view of the world. Everything is given that same angled view, but there is no life in the colour or designs. They feel functional at best.
One thing I'm not too keen on is the font size. I get the feeling that much of the code has been lifted from the iPad version of Airport City, which has a much more conducive DPI to reading the small fonts on the screen. From the opening tutorials through to describing each mission, I found it a struggle to enjoy the game because I had to stop and really focus on the words.
Compare that to the email client on your Windows Phone, or another game where the font is chosen with regards to ease of reading (such as Wordament) and you get the idea.
Part of the role of the designer of a freemium game is to make sure people want to keep playing. If they keep playing, there is more time for the title to engage them and hopefully have some of those players reach the point where they are happy to throw down some money.
For me, Airport City never manages to engage fully. The graphics are hard to love, the missions do not feel inventive or draw me in, and the game makes a number of mistakes in terms of design that forces me mentally out of the space.
For example, you fill up an aircraft as it sits on the runway, fully loaded with people and cargo. Errr... I know it's a little thing in the scheme of the game, but when you are pitching something as a simulator - even at a fun level, as Game Insight Global is using here - getting the basics wrong is enough to unsettle me as I am reviewing it.
There are enough little moments like this which kill Airport City for me. It's a shame because I found Rule the Kingdom to be relatively engaging and a good balance in the freemium world. Airport City feels like a cheap 'turn and burn' freemium release with the mechanics, but no heart. With no heart, there's no passion. And with no passion there's no payment.
For me, Airport City never clicked with me. That meant there was no enjoyment when playing, and nothing to lure me back. Some freemium games might not hit me straight away but pull me back in. Not Airport City. Much like a transit lounge, I arrived, I endured, and I left, and I have no desire to ever go back again.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at