For some, gaming serves a dual purpose: To have fun primarily, and then also to get a healthy dose of escapism as a nice byproduct. Games that put you in the cockpit are a quick shortcut which allows you to bypass that annoying pilot’s license test and accruing the requisite hours of flying. Here are a handful to get you started on getting some serious altitude on the iPhone.
There’s no better place to start than Top Gun ($1.99). Despite the generic name and seemingly well-tread territory, this is actually a rejuvenated take on arcade-like dog-fighting on the iPhone. You play as a cadet under the tutelage of Maverick and Iceman, now teachers at the Top Gun Academy. You blast Communists like any good American should, and while the course on each mission is set for you automatically, you’re free to bob and weave like a prize fighter in your fighter jet or stealth bomber, while trying to get the jump on your enemies. Despite the occasional stalling, the game’s butter-smooth steering and astonishingly fast speed certify this one for a download.
Siberian Strike (99 cents) also lets you blast commies, but this time in a top-down, old-school shooter game. You play a 1940’s pilot who must prevent the dreaded Stalinbot from invading Europe—the ridiculous plot and over-the-top in-game voices are both a winking nod to classic shooters in the genre. Moving and shooting are done by merely drawing your fighter’s flight path on the screen, which can occasionally make for an obscured ship, though the simplified controls can go haywire, since a powered-up shot requires two fingers on the screen simultaneously, confusing your ship. True, the levels can feel repetitive after a while, but that’s always been true of the genre. Besides, the levels are expansive both in width and length, so there’s always lots to blow up and little else to think about.
Blimp – The Flying Adventures (99 cents) takes another revisionist stab at history, but as it’s rather dense and involves aliens and other planets, all you need to know is this: You pilot a zeppelin and transport cargo and passengers from one point on the screen to another. That’s it. It can get annoying to do these tasks over and over while the game insists you’re traveling around the world, and the seemingly simple, but actually overly complex controls, hinder extended-play sessions. For example, you tilt to steer the ship, hold down one button to raise up, and push another button to drop bombs, meaning you’ll be blocking a good chunk of the screen with your own thumbs. It’s all right, though, and there are worse ways to spend 99 cents.
Glyder (99 cents) puts you in Eryn’s shoes: A woman stuck in a dimensional rift that can only be opened by collecting colored orbs while floating by on her glider. OK, so it doesn’t really make any sense at all, but Glyder’s super-smooth controls make it relatively enjoyable. You’ll know right away whether this game is right for you, so definitely check out the free version before sinking money into it. But if just tilting to sail around a landscape sounds like your idea of a good time, have at it.
Ground Effect ($1.99) also raises you off the ground with an unconventional mode of travel, but not as high as the aforementioned games. A hovership-racing game, Ground Effect is about halfway to becoming a great and essential title. As it is right now, the effortless steering over water and land and soothing music aren’t enough to hold up clunky menus and lifeless races. You can’t even run opposing hovercrafts off the race course to crash—your opponents feel more like commuters trying to make their way home than driving sweet hovercrafts around a volcano, for instance. But that shouldn’t stop you from dodging reality some more and driving this pretend hovership.