Bottom Line: A strategic multi-level flying game for iPhone users 8+. It has an interesting backstory and is fun and very challenging once you get the hang of it.
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Sometimes I read an app's description before I try it, but this time I opened Blue Pilot by developer Five Deer Limited with no knowledge of what it is about. The premise, as described on the iTunes page and developer website, is quite engaging, but the app itself has no written instructions and the whole purpose to the game is very unclear without doing a little digging. There are visual directions, and I understood how to move the dragonfly around, but I didn't have fun until I understood the backstory.
According to iTunes, a blue dragonfly named Bluetail dreams of being the fastest dragonfly in the Dragonfly Kingdom. The game consists of flying contests against seven different competitors throughout the various levels which are represented by different locations on a map of the kingdom. The competition includes The Flames who fly at 80 km/hour, and Wind Riders, which top out at 90 km/hour. The competitors have different strengths which require adjusting strategy to beat them. It's an original premise with a full complement of good guy and bad guy characters, but without reading the app description on iTunes or the website (or this review), the user will not know any of that.
Players control Bluetail's navigation with swiping motions or tapping as he tries to fly to objects first, freeze them in their path, and otherwise win at contests. Swiping gives Bluetail a burst of speed but sometimes the object he is chasing moves, and this requires a quick course adjustment. To complicate matters other fliers may get there first so players must constantly point Bluetail in the right direction to get as many diamonds or green glowing things collected as possible before time runs out.
Completing the goal for each level before the time runs out is required to advance through the levels. As the difficulty increases, Bluetail must recruit other little speed demons to fly on his team. I like the concept of requiring teamwork in a video game. It's a lesson kids would do well to remember for the future. Sometimes Bluetail is chasing objects against three other fliers that are much faster. There's something to be said for kids being in the position of an underdog and perservering.
According to iTunes, Bluetail gets faster by going to Aviation School. This was my least-favorite challenge—it involves chasing around green lights that disappear very quickly. But after finding out it might make my dragonfly faster and more competitive, I gave it a shot. It was amazing how much faster Bluetail got, and Aviation School can be played with the additional dragonflies earned in a previous level, too. That makes for three fast dragonflies which is very helpful in later levels. Flight School also helped me to refine my playing strategy. There is also advanced flight school training available at the prestigious Star University.
I couldn’t finish playing the game, though, due to my ineptitude at game play. In order to move past the Frost River level, the user has to have ten of the Wind Riders frozen at the end of the game play time. However, the non-frozen Wind Riders keep unfreezing their pals, just like a competitive game of freeze tag! Unfortunately on my iPad, every time I wasn’t able to complete the level, the app crashed. This didn’t happen for Ron, though, and probably is irrelevant—even if the app didn’t crash, I still had to pass that level before moving on.
The premise of Blue Pilot is fun, once the back story is known, and will probably appeal to many young kids. There is some logic and strategy involved, too—which direction should I go to get to the next object before the competitor? Is there a way to outsmart the Wind Riders in the Frost River? Can all three of the dragonflies work together to provide good defense?
I would like to see more story development within the app, instead of just on the website, and the game also needs a better way to save a player’s game—accidentally choosing Play (more prominent) over Resume on the Home screen leads to starting entirely over. I’m also an exclusive iPad user,
so selfishly I’d like to see an HD version.
The app has one external link to Facebook, but otherwise is ad-free and very good for young kids anxious to hone their gaming chops. It’s a good value game and non-violent which is a matter of some concern these days. If you’re much better at game play than I am, and of course, most kids probably are, then definitely give it a look. Anything that keeps Ron from playing Kingdom Rush must be good.
Heather Hetler may have gotten motion sickness from all of those attempts at aviation school. Her 8 year old son probably just got a stomach virus. Jill Goodman contributed to this review. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.