Now Boarding: Now Boarding Gamers

By Kieron Gillen on August 9th, 2008 at 11:03 am.

Despite jetting around so much the last month, my traveling experience was disturbingly smooth. But I knew behind that smooth facade was a room full of people screaming into microphones that prevented planes from colliding head-long into each other or crashing into the runway and similar. I’ve seen Die Hard 2. I know how it works. So when news of Now Boarding, an indie airline management game slid into my inbox, the idea of becoming DEFIER OF AIRLINE PERIL amused me. And so did the game, thankfully.

It’s fundamentally a light management sorting game, leaning towards the, “Mr Walker in Aisle 2 has gone apeshit crazy because he’s been on the plan for eight hours” problems rather than, “I have eight planes on the runway in 40,000 pieces.” Which works well – the mood is that light early-Sixties animation feel, which reminds me of the on-plane Virgin safety videos. Complete with period lounge music, it’s a useful example of how a minimalistic aesthetic style can lead to an indie game with a distinctive look.

The core game is simple. You have a number of airports. Customers appear, each wanting to go to a different destination. You have a number of planes, each of which can carry a number of said customers. The longer people wait, the angrier they get. And that’s it.

So while there’s lots of side aspects to worry about – for example, upgrading your terminal with things to distract the customers from the fact they’ve been sitting in Atlanta for half a year or passing cloud power-ups between airports which give a bonus if you can schedule a flight through ‘em – the key aspect is… well, I have four people on the plane here. They want to go to Tampa. There’s three people there who want to go to New Orleans and three people who want to go to Miami. There’s only room for four spaces on the plane… Okay, I’ll send it to Miami, and get another plane to fly empty from Atlanta to New Orleans to sort it out and…

It’s a low-brain level sorting mechanism a la Tetris, but it swiftly throws a lot of decisions at you, and working out an optimum solution is rewarding and elusive (screwing up a complicated pattern of flights because you’ve mistimed when a flight is going to arrive at an airport so the customers get on the wrong plane is common). Smartly it quickly introduces a little mechanisation for the most basal tasks you initially handle yourself, and there’s achievements and similar to unlock. My main reservation: it’s a shame that when planes are in the air the information of which customers are aboard can only be revealed with a pop-up – it’s the sort of thing which I’d have liked the designer to work out an at-a-glance solution for, as it’s handy info. Though I’ll fully admit working out an elegant one would be tricky.

There’s a full version for twenty dollars – fifteen dollars for early players – and initially the game may seem a little sleight for that price. On the other hand, I realised the demo version has eaten getting on for two hours of my time without me noticing it, and remained delightfully fresh.

I think it’s certainly worth a play. Do so here.

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15 Comments »

  1. Commando says:

    Tsk, your first link is broken. When will gaming journalism be held to standards etc etc…

    I wish people would stop making games in browser that use random plugins. If I installed all the ones required I would imagine it would take half an hour for IE to load, as they mostly only work in IE, natch.

  2. Jim Rossignol says:

    It is held to standards. Kieron’s standards.

  3. Cargo Cult says:

    Does it involve unexpected diversions to Indianapolis?

  4. Alex says:

    It’s a nice game, lovely graphics and music. But $15 seems a bit steep, seems more like a $10 game to me, eventhough that makes me sound quite stingy and heartless..

  5. Lucky says:

    I think I’ll stick with Aerobiz Supersonic, thank you very much.

  6. Servitor says:

    With the following in mind, I purchased the game:

    http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2008/8/8/

    It’s fun, but it’s also buggy. Planes get stuck at the gate, and even quitting the game and coming back doesn’t fix the issue. Also it begins to lag pretty hard–memory leak? I hardly ever experience lag of any kind on this computer.

  7. Alex says:

    With the following in mind, I purchased the game:

    http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2008/8/8/

    Actually, I thought Tycho’s argument was pretty weak – he starts out by saying people should be willing to pay $15 for Game X which is great, because people also buy Game Y for, say, $30 which is shit.

    Basically he’s just saying he wishes people would buy better games, which has little to do with concerns about pricing, a point he even proves himself.

  8. Pace says:

    A bit off topic, but the comments on John’s old blog posts are closed, so I’ll add this here. The post immediately before the one Kieron linked to is hysterical, about John’s adventures at a Heathrow hotel. Go find out what John finds analogous to milking a jellyfish!

  9. lesslucid says:

    “Slight”, meaning “slender”, not “sleight”, meaning “skill” or “stratagem”.

  10. j39hsieh says:

    very good fnnd I ended up bying this game though I still haven’t finished it. Seems like there’s a difficulty jump after u hit the later episodes. Still willng to try it smtime again though.

  11. Sync says:

    Please help my comp got a virus!

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  12. Sync says:

    does anybody know were i can download the Synth] VOCALOID 2 HATSUNE MIKU program or at least a demo version? i really wanna use it

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  13. seb says:

    hey I love NOW BOARDING

  14. Wes Tourtellotte says:

    This blog seems to get a good ammount of visitors. How do you promote it? It offers a nice individual twist on things. I guess having something useful or substantial to give info on is the most important factor.

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