Developed By: N-Fusion
Published By: N-Fusion
Category: Action, Adventure, Flight Sim
Release Date: 6.26.18
I’ve always been one of those people who looks down his nose at mobile games. They’re not deep enough, they’re just cheap cash grabs, they’re not real games, et cetera. That’s me. I’ve recently been playing some mobile ports that have me rethinking how I look at the dreaded mobile market, however. Air Mail for the Nintendo Switch, originally released on iOS in 2012, puts that prejudice to the test. It’s not perfect, by any means, but it’s charming, well-designed, and, ultimately, just a very solid and fun game.
The island nation of Domeeka has a long and proud history of air mail delivery pilots. When Shipmaster Lucky finds you trying to sneak into a plane, you become the newest (and youngest) pilot in the Domeekan fleet. Lucky teaches you to fly a plane and how to pick up and drop off cargo, and just when you’ve got the hang of it, wouldn’t you know it, and evil empire shows up and blockades the whole dang country. The pilot’s goals are to find a way to deliver (see what I did there?) his homeland from the clutches of the Verikai Sky Fleet and bring freedom back to the skies of Domeeka.
The game revolves around flying your plane to certain areas, picking up cargo, and dropping it off at the indicated delivery points. It’s simple, certainly, but it’s very well-designed and smooth. The controls are somewhat intuitive, except for climbing and diving in the air. You hit up to go up and down to go down, which may sound intuitive, but every other flight sim inverts their controls. There’s no way to reset the control scheme in Air Mail, which is somewhat annoying, but it’s a minor distraction at best. I got used to the control scheme after a few missions and didn’t really notice it, but early on it was an issue for me. You can also hit the right trigger to speed up and the left trigger to slow down, which is useful if you’re flying in some tight spaces, and there are a few to be found.
There are three game modes to play. In the story-based Mission Mode, there are basically two types of missions; pick up and deliver, and fly through a course. Sure, there are different things you’re picking up, ranging from packages to fish to pesticides, but the mechanics are the same; fly over the item to pick it up, fly over a box to drop it off. The course missions have gates to fly through; and most of them you don’t even have to fly through in order. You get a grade based on how well you did during the mission, from one to five stars. There are also golden monkey idols to collect, and collecting one from each level unlocks the golden plane. Eventually, once Verikai invades, you will have to dodge enemy fire during missions as well, but they are in stationary zeppelins and they aren’t very good shots. How a country that only has zeppelins is able to achieve air superiority over a nation with places is not explained, but I assume you just have to go with it.
Express Mode has the game’s challenge missions. Essentially, you have to perform a task for as long as possible. For instance, in the package delivery challenge, you must collect and deliver as many packages as you can before time runs out. Dropping off a package adds time to your total, and there are also pocket watches to be collected that add time as well. There are five challenges, and they each emphasize different things from Mission Mode, although there is some overlap. For instance, in addition to the package delivery challenge, there’s also a fishing challenge. Both challenges work exactly the same way, just one has packages and one has fish.
The final game mode is Explore Mode. Here you can freely explore the five stages from Mission Mode, collecting twenty scrolls scattered throughout the level. When you’ve collected all the scrolls, a new paint scheme for your plane is unlocked. You can also fly through gates over the landmarks in each level, which will reveal that landmark’s name if you had forgotten it. There’s not much else to Explore Mode.
The game’s graphics are smooth and bright, but it definitely looks like a game that was developed six years ago. It looks like it’s been touched up for the Nintendo Switch release, but ultimately it does look a generation old. It’s a colorful and pleasant game to look at nonetheless, so I didn’t take off too many points for it. The art from the cutscenes is a little amateurish, but it’s cartoony in a charming way and is consistent with the game’s aesthetic, so it’s forgivable. The music is light and breezy, and just creates an atmosphere of fun. Overall, the game feels like it was designed to be an easy, accessible experience, and the graphics and music emphasize that beautifully.
Air Mail has no touch or motion controls, which is surprising given its iOS roots, but they aren’t really necessary given the gameplay. It plays just as well docked or undocked as a result, but the graphics don’t show their age quite as much on the Switch’s undocked screen. Combined with the ease of picking up the game and playing any time, that makes this game recommended for undocked play.
TL;DR: Charming and easygoing game that’s a lot of fun if you’re looking for a casual gaming experience, but not really meaty enough if you’re looking for a hardcore flight sim.