SimplePlanes is a sandbox physics game based on the idea of creating vehicles. Let me tell you now, building anything in this game really isn’t simple – well the concept is, but the execution requires a fair amount of poking around to find the perfect design. The idea brought Kerbal Space Program to the forefront of my aching brain, with it’s explosive trial and error approach to aeronautical craft design. Here’s what I reckon SimplePlanes does to warrant a 7/10 from myself here at Brash Games…
As a young professional who seems to never stop working, I’m always looking for new ways to escape during free time. That means the main point of a video game to me is all about having fun, which seems obvious; but we live in an e-world where we’ll throw money at a game and it’ll still come out half-baked. Not cool. SimplePlanes may feel a little unfinished in places despite it’s full release status, but it’s still a fun game that’ll eat away those lonely nights in.
So in SimplePlanes the player will probably spend most of their time in the vehicle editor. The construction of vehicles from scores of functional components is cool and allows you to really get stuck into building a flying pirate ship, or remodelling current military fighters for example. So far I’ve played the game for around 8 hours and the vast majority of that time has been spent failing to take off and going back to the drawing board; all of which with copious amounts of laughter between. Just when you think you’ve got the design right, it can all fall apart because the centre of gravity is ever so slightly out, or the craft is too heavy to be moved by it’s propulsion. This brings me nicely onto the physics of the game.
Physics is fleshed out and rewarding in SimplePlanes, with the tutorial giving you a few basic lessons on aeronautical theory before letting you loose on an example aeroplane. Ultimately the onus is totally on the player to create a craft that has enough balance, propulsion and manoeuvrability to get it going, or else you’ll find that your beautiful and intricate creation will simply flip over and explode several times. The first time this happened I was incensed with rage, but then I realised that hey this is kinda the point of the game – you design, trial that design and then move on to perfect it. Once you’re actually up in the sky there isn’t really much to do. You can however, launch into race or dogfight mode with the planes you’ve built, giving the player a chance to see how their craft performs in an actual challenge. SimplePlanes’ developers Jundroo LLC are offering up prizes to those who can achieve fastest times in races competitively.
By the way if you get fed up of failing at vehicle design, there are supposedly over 100,000 airplanes for download from the SimplePlanes website – pretty mental. They’re definitely worth checking out as you’ve got everything from faithful recreations of the B-52 bomber, to entirely player designed concept crafts. With this in mind it does make my original designs seem rather pathetic, almost like I’d created the world’s worst paper aeroplane and managed to get it to explode into smithereens.
Race and combat modes in SimplePlanes are fun and give you the chance to test out your creations, with missions ranging from bomber escort to an assault course of surface-to-air missile dodging! This is a nice touch as without this kind of mode the game would be somewhat devoid of a goal, except for the fact it’s a great time-waster. For SimplePlanes to move forward however, the developers need to up their game a little, as time-wasters rarely ever rocket off into the annals of video game history. What could keep me coming back for more is A) a multiplayer mode, B) More interesting environments and C) Some higher-res graphics.
Sadly lacking the multiplayer option is a bit of a nose-dive for SimplePlanes, especially as e-sports are taking off big time and the ultimate goal for many gamers is to make it into the competitive leagues. Jundroo LLC have touched on the idea of SimplePlanes being competitive through their tournaments and prizes, but in terms of simply being able to dive into a game with friends, the game is currently failing. Dog-fighting AI is great but pitting your wits against mates would be even more fun.
I’d like to see some Steam Workshop integration for SimplePlanes, giving rise to new environments to fly, drive and sail through. Some higher-res textures also wouldn’t go a miss as the environments feel a little empty right now, especially as the core gameplay mechanics are already nailed down solid. Like I said the physics system is great and the controls are smooth, making for realistic handling of vehicles within the constraints of propeller and jet engine designs. I think so Workshop integration would open up the game a little as it’s the kind of sandbox where players (clearly) love to create and share with the community; something that is a big draw for many gamers these days.
Overall SimplePlanes is on the up with rocket speed, especially with the recent addition of land vehicles, broadening their horizons if you will (no weak-ass pun intended). I love the ease of control and the physics system, but without much of an end-game goal so to speak, SimplePlanes falls short of being an amazing game. If the developers were to introduce some missions or a multiplayer mode, I’d definitely be tempted back into shooting a lot more hours into it. My only hope now is that someone recreates the Thunderbirds…
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