There are plenty of time management titles in the casual gaming domain but very few involve working a full flight schedule in an airport setting. Airport Mania was more focused on the planes themselves, working them to the gate, offloading people, handling incidents on the runway and clearing as much traffic as possible. Now Boarding is a bit larger in scale, handling flight plans and round trips of passengers across the United States.
Gabob, developer of Now Boarding, wanted to give as many people as possible the opportunity to play their time management title. They’ve implemented Now Boarding with Adobe Air, a downloadable flash engine which gives Apple OS X users, Microsoft Windows users, Linux users and others the chance to play this fast paced addicting title.
“The employees of Airways Airlines are an interesting bunch. Their airport is going to be closed if they don’t get some help quick. Take charge and get the airport running smooth. Be responsible for delivering all passengers and keep them happy.
But you’re not alone – employees will be working along side you. Lead your team and help them learn skills. Renovate and make the terminal look fantastic. Grow and expand across the country!” (nowboarding.us)
The game starts out at a fairly easy pace, running your airport through a small set of cities and managing a small fleet of mid-sized airplanes. Your goal is to bring your paying passengers to their final destinations, often times through connecting flights to make long distances or handle multiple passenger destinations. The speed of the game picks up at the perfect pace, not too quickly but never to the point of boredom.
Before long you’ll find yourself making some big time cash which allows you to complete a series of goals required to make your airline a success. It may take you 18 months (turns) or more to complete all the goals, the lower the month count the better but take it at your own pace. Like most time management titles each month ends with a success or failure and some amount of money as your reward.
With your cash you can invest in employees to automate some basic tasks such as boarding passengers, bringing planes off the landing zone and keeping waiting customers happy. You’ll also use your cash to buy decor to keep people happy and food/drink stands to give your customers something to occupy themselves while they wait for their flights.
Most importantly, you can purchase new planes to increase your fleet size and purchase new cities for new destinations. Save up enough money and you can purchase larger planes with bigger tanks and faster speeds to get your impatient passengers to their far away final destinations. Increasing your fleet and cities increases the potential for higher income after each month and adds higher difficulty as you must now take on more responsibility.
Since you’ll choose when you’re ready to buy a new destination (providing you have the money), you can increase the pace of the game to your desired speed. The competitive casual gamers will push the envelope and try to increase their dominance as soon as possible to complete all the required goals and be the ultimate time management airline gamer.
The first release of Now Boarding has three regions known as “episodes”: Southeast, Northeast and West. You begin your career in the Southeast and progress to the Northeast and finally the West. The idea is simple, each episode needs a bigger presence of your airline so each episode begins you anew with a small airline and new goals to grow the airline to monumental proportions.
Each episode does build in difficulty, the Southeast has a small number of destinations and the Northeast builds upon the destinations by making many of them further apart requiring more thought, more connecting flights and more tactical abilities. Once you’ve hit the Western episode you’re an experienced Now Boarding gamer and you’ll be challenge at a whole new level, managing more planes than ever before with destinations across huge gaps of land.
Once you’ve played Now Boarding you’ll have a new respect for the airline industry and the work they must have to go through to bring passengers from Point-A to Point-B most efficiently. You’ll find yourself failing the month and trying it over if you have a certain number of passengers “freak out” due to frustration with your inability to get them to their destination. I’m sure, at some point in your life, you’ve “freaked out” on a real airline, I know I have!
Now Boarding has a lot of play value for its price, currently set at USD $14.99. Beware, Now Boarding is extremely addictive; it took roughly 15-hours to win all three episodes and call the game completed… until it unlocked two new modes and replay value increased even more! Survival Mode is an unlockable mode, once you clear the three episodes in which you basically have an unlimited amount of cash to buy as many planes, destinations, employees and upgrades to your facility. However, Survival Mode will test your strength and skills because it only ends when you’ve had too many passengers freak out. How long can you go?
Perhaps the best mode in the game is Free Play, you can choose the size of the region you want to work with, personally “United States” is the best region for me because it gives access to every destination in the game all in one huge map. You’re goal is to train all your employees and promote them to run the airline by themselves. Free play is more of a sandbox style game, you pick which city is your hub and what destination(s) you want to start with and a number of planes to begin. You’re given 50k to buy what you can before you start, then you’ll begin your rise to the top upgrading as you go.
Survival Mode is a great way to practice and build your skills, Career Mode is what the core of the game was based on and Free Play Mode extends the life of the game way beyond the $14.99 price tag. As far as Time Management games go, this one is designed to be a challenge but not land you in a pit of frustration. You may find yourself sweating to complete a month but feel extremely rewarded when you’ve pulled it off.
If there are any complaints about the game, it would be in the minor glitches that sometimes occur. In one instance I’ve had a menu get stuck on top of the map, making it impossible to continue. All in all, there were only three or so instances of issues where things didn’t do as one would expect, but all of them were user interface issues, the core game design itself has been rock solid.
A version 1.1 will arrive sometime soon and this will include UK and Europe as map episodes, new upgrades, new plane upgrade features, special abilities and advanced routing situations. Personally, that will be a must buy as well! Hopefully we can follow up with a review of version 1.1 when it arrives.