App of the day: Pilot's Path review (iPhone, iPad)

Exploratory helicopter games haven't really existed since Nuclear Strike finished the Strike series in 1997. Pilot's Path could be accused of being more of a nod to the yet-older Desert Strike game, albeit minus much of that title's "strike" action. If you're after a frenetic shooter then Pilot's Path's mission-based, fly-around approach may not suit all as it's very much a search and retrieve title - but it does come laden with lovely rendered cut scenes and large worlds to explore.

Pilot's Path

Format
iPhone, iPad
Price
£0.69
Where
iTunes

How long a game keeps you hooked is often a sign of just how good it is and we've already spent many an hour playing Pilot's Path. The game has an accumulative counter per mission that records how long you've been playing for and we're already three hours deep on a single Saturday morning - many of which we've spent mindlessly flying about at sea wondering where the heck those oil barrels are while fretting about diminishing fuel levels.

Pilot's Path is all about exploring and finding such items which, in turn, generate money supplied by your apparent mob boss. Admittedly we've no idea who each of these boss characters is, but their stereotypical "don't mess" appearance seems to fit the game's bill. This cash can then be used to upgrade, repair and refuel your wingless wonder via a "sexy mechanic" - the game's word's, not ours - who is reminiscent of a bug-eyed, curvaceous Manga character. Upgradable sections are broken down into hull, fuel, radar, altitude, speed and cargo capacities - each of which has its own obvious impact on the game.

Horrendously, there's also a "gift" part in the shop where real-money can be spent on this female sprite, but given that we entirely oppose such a ludicrous idea we'll brush past this low point and focus on the game's good stuff instead, y'know, like the gameplay.

Each flight costs fuel and, to some degree, hull damage, both of which prove to be limitations on how far from base you'll be able to fly in any one session. Run out of fuel, hit various objects or take too much damage and - boom - it's game over, spinning fireball style. You'll reappear back at base but 1,000 coins worse off and minus any items that were in your cargo hold. You'll quickly learn that the three bars to the right of the screen which measure cargo, fuel and hull are of critical importance to keep an eye on.

Cargo is another of the more significant limiting factors: at the start of a mission there'll be little space on board, which limits the number of items that can be collected. Increasing cargo - which costs money - is crucial to a more cash-laden success where it's possible to gather up multiple and larger items.

Controlling your chopper is simple: there's a left virtual stick for altitude and a right virtual stick for direction and speed. These can be placed with a one-touch tap around the Apple device's screen as you so wish or - and here's a cool thing - the game can instead be displayed on a your TV screen and the Apple device used solely as a controller.

Simple though they may be, you'll want to keep a close eye on various on-screen gauges to ensure you're not causing unnecessary hull damage by excessive speed, while also maintaining a relevant altitude to avoid collisions with surrounding objects. You'll need to be intricate when landing or collecting objects to avoid any costly collisions.

Once you've powered your chopper up to the max and completed all the quests within a mission it's on to the next mission. That means jungle turns to desert where, with a new chopper in tow, the game's tact remains much the same. New boss-type character, but same style of quests (and no shooting to be seen anywhere). The thing we found a little annoying about this - despite its obvious repetitiveness - is that each new chopper starts back at its most basic level. We'd have preferred for power-ups to carry through from one to the next to morph your bird into an ultimate mean machine as the game progressed.

As it stands there's something satisfying about hunting out various objects, irrelevant of the simplicity of this search and retrieve concept. It's Pilot Path's simple plot - which is loose to say the least - and nod to old school classic titles that makes it fun to play. It's well worth the 69p download price and even if there are some silly money-grabbing ploys in the shop you won't ever need to bother with them: there are enough valuable objects littered around the various worlds so you can keep on, er, chopperin'.