Airport Mania makes manic feel calming

Bottom line readers should know right now that Airport Mania should feel like home, rushing from airport to airport to make the next meeting. Airport Mania:

  • Is an iPhone app that may be better on an iPad
  • Is cute and challenging
  • Deserves an HD iPad upgrade.

Seriously, this is about the most fun you can have for a dollar.

In addition, I revisit my greatest childhood trauma but with ten times fewer paragraphs than I did my second greatest trauma, tell the reader how I unthinkingly influenced the design of modern conveyance devices, explain why it brings to mind the game being reviewed and complain about the quality of most iPhone apps when scaled to 2x view on the iPad (in spite of Apple’s promises to the contrary).


Have you ever noticed that the moving hand rail on escalators actually runs all the way down the front and to the floor before disappearing into the mechanism? Do you know why it does that?

Because of me.

They didn’t used to be that way. They used to loop over the end of the escalator and then disappear into a metal housing about three feet up from the floor. Until the day when I was seven-years-old and my parents took my sister Beth and me to see my Aunt Judy fly in at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

The day I decided to see what it would be like to let my hand stay on the hand rail and ride it all the way down into the metal housing. Do you know what I saw?

I didn’t see my hand come back out, that’s for sure. I didn’t see my hand come back out because it couldn’t come back out. It was stuck in the gears. The part of it that was still there. My memory goes blank from that moment, but I understand they had to call a maintenance crew to take the escalator housing apart and extract my hand. Many people missed their flights to see the show my memory no longer allows me to recall.

Ten years ago Carol and I landed at DFW and we were taking the route the stewardess advised would get us to baggage claims the quickest. It was a back way, through the oldest remaining part of the airport and suddenly I realized we were in the same area where my hand did the reverse rabbit trick when I was a child. I realized, without the benefit of hypnotic regression therapy, that this escalator’s predecessor had very nearly cannibalized my hand.

I told Carol the story, and she said, “And you’re blaming the escalator for that?”

Wisely, I shut up, we collected our bags and checked out our rental car. But now I wake up occasionally in the middle of the night, feeling the phantom strips of skin flayed from my poor young hand.

If you remember reading my blog last Friday about the second most traumatic incident of my childhood, you probably understand now why it was only the second most traumatic.

Ironically, last Friday’s trauma story was only included because it was game day Friday and my memory the trauma was directly related to the game I reviewed. Today’s trauma occurred in an airport, and this game day Friday’s game is all about airports. Today I’m reviewing the second greatest iPhone game in need of an upgrade to iPad, Airport Mania.

Flight Control fans will no doubt be pissed right now. After all, the iPhone version outsold Airport Mania by well more than two-to-one (based on the number of reviews) and that includes Airport Mania’s free version. And Flight Control has an HD version for the iPad.

Sorry, Flight Control fans. I may download and review the iPad app next month, but I never warmed up to the iPhone version even though it was one of the first games I downloaded (and I made that decisions based on your reviews, by the way). I didn’t discover Airport Mania until I downloaded it for my iPad and I fell in love with the small-screen game on iPad’s big screen right away.

Cute and charming and challenging.
If not a trifecta, at least Three Cs

Most iPhone games lose a lot in 2x mode on the iPad screen. Even when they’re still fun, the graphics are disappointing. Games like Pocket God are well drawn enough at low resolution to look almost high resolution. Airport Mania survives the transition because the graphics are cute and simple. They feel as though they were drawn to be scaled up.

The game is simple; game play not so much. You begin as a flight controller in training. You can actually sit through the academy for a series of lessons, or dive right into the game and fly by the seat of your pants. Most of the information in the tutorial reappears as tips during game play, so you may feel comfortable diving right in.

The challenge remains the same at every level. Land as many planes and return them to the air as quickly as possible without pissing off too many passengers. How do you piss off passengers? Remarkably, Airport Mania passengers are kind and polite. But if you leave them in the air or on the tarmac too long, they begin to lose their temper.

The planes’ expressions reflect the passengers’ feelings.
Leave them unattended too long and their expressions turn downright hostile.

How do you know they’re losing patience? The planes communicate with smiles frowns, whistles and growls. When they’re happy, they sing a little ditty. When the singing stops, you’re about to lose points.

The game begins in a small town airport with two terminals, two landing strips and a layover space. The quicker you unload passengers, reload the new passengers and get them on their way, the better the score. You improve your score even more with consecutive landings on the same strip and by sending planes of the same color to the same terminal (if you can).

You start off small, in a small town airport.

It doesn’t take long for your job to get complicated. After a couple of levels the planes start to break down and run out of fuel. The passengers begin to expect better service. By the last level you’re connecting dozens of planes with six different colors to only four high speed terminals, all the while serving coffee, defrosting landing strips and providing VIP service. In the meantime, three or four planes may be waiting in line for the single repair bay and another half dozen for the only fuel pump.

The last level requires fancy juggling
between broken planes and frozen landing strips.

Oh, yes, and you may have to land organs for immediate delivery to the hospital and pregnant mothers in labor. They all have to wait in line when the President arrives.

Fortunately, as you become better at your job the passengers pay for the improved service. You can spend those earnings on more and more amenities, including VIP waiting lanes, in-flight movies, defrosters for your runways and high-speed repairs.

Each level offers more amenities for travelers,
providing you’ve done well enough to buy them.

If you really screw up, you can always repeat a level to improve your score. And some levels get really hairy. You will also find that different amenities are more useful in different airports.

Will you screw up? Absolutely. You will experience some moments when planes are stacked in the air so thick smaller planes are hidden behind larger planes. You may not realize they’re waiting to land until their teeth are bared with hostility. They may even blow you off for another airport and then you really lose points.

You can even paint planes to improve your consecutive landing score.

If you like collecting trophies, you can collect dozens of them. You can even admire your skills by visiting the trophy room to see how well you’ve done. I never understood the point of virtual trophies, it’s a little like watching virtual girls or eating virtual victuals. But people who not only frame their diplomas but those certificates from professional development courses as well may find a tremendous source of satisfaction in the digital trophy room.

Airport Mania actually plays better on the iPad than the iPhone. The bigger screen makes it easier to select planes, especially if you have thick and clumsy fingers. I don’t have any problems playing the game on the iPhone, I just feel more claustrophobic. The iPad actually opens up the game.

Do I hold much hope for an iPad version?

Not really. The developers at Reflexive Entertainment haven’t done anything for the iPhone in almost a year, and one of their iPhone games BioLabs barely registered as a blip in the reviews. I’m hoping this blog lights a virtual jet engine under their asses.

Should you go ahead and download the iPhone version for the iPad? Absolutely. It looks good (if not spectacular) on the iPad’s big screen, you can play for a minute or for and hour, and the dollar price can’t be beat.

Jenny Manytoes rates Airport Mania

Jenny Manytoes makes biscuits on Airport Mania even on the iPad. Of course, cats love watching things buzz around in the air. There’s a moth in the room right now and Jenny is sitting on my shoulder batting at it every time it flits by. Ari and Buddy are on my desk waiting their turn.

I need to shut this down. Cocoa Puff just climbed on my head to get to the moth and she and Jenny are now batting at each other across what used to be my hairline.

Crap. Here comes Teddy trying to figure out what he’s missing.

That’s the same kind of excitement you experience playing Airport Mania.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System


Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

iPad Envy is created entirely using apps from my iPad
iPad Envy.

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About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
This entry was posted in 5 Stars - Biscuits, Entertainment, Games, iPad, Time Wasters and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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