Review: The Night Flier (iPhone)

8 mins read
Angry Birds has long dominated the list of bestsellers in the iTunes App Store, and for good reason: with an interesting yet simple design, a cutesy yet hardboiled premise and a continuous cycle of updates all with the same level of ingenuity, Angry Birds has remained one of the most addictive games to play on the go. Other games have attempted to knock Angry Birds off its perch, and some like Tiny Wings even managed to steal the spotlight for a time, but the Birds always come flocking back to the top spot.
But it’s time for a new king of the roost. It’s time that someone came and pecked the Birds off the power line they’ve been nesting on and cracked the egg that is the number one spot on the bestseller list. Someone like The Night Flier.
Okay, well, maybe not. But, as my girlfriend pointed out, damn that bat is cute.

See? So cute!

Now that I’ve gotten all those bird jokes out of my system, let’s get on-topic. The Night Flier is a new iOS game from developers PageNet. The premise of the game is pretty straightforward: you are a bat flying above the rooftops of a city and you must avoid clouds, items suspended by balloons and planes in an attempt to get as far as you can without dying. You do this by guiding your bat through narrow passages between the clouds or by avoiding the hazardous objects, all completed with a simple touch to the screen. By touching the screen, your little bat flies upwards. If you stop touching the screen, he flies down.

If this mechanic sounds oddly familiar to the classic game Helicopter, you’d be spot on: The Night Flier seems little more than an updated version of that classic arcade game, though there are some interesting differences. For instance, where Helicopter has you merely avoiding stationary obstacles, some of the obstacles (such as the aforementioned planes) actually move around the track. This provides an added challenge, though it’s generally nothing to be worried about. Also, instead of simple walls, we have things like bricks tied to balloons, hammers floating in the air for no reason, and nuclear pigs. Yeah, you heard me.
The game records your progress through a system of points. The further you go in a level, the more points you are awarded, which you can then use to buy yourself game-altering powers. And by “game-altering”, I actually mean the ability to pause in the middle of a game, and the addition of an extra life with which to double your points. Kind of.
The powers are a bit of a wash, honestly. The fact that a pause button is something that you have to unlock does not speak well of The Night Flier, and while the extra life sounds good, it actually does nothing: you spend your hard-earned points on giving your bat an extra life but it doesn’t actually double your points. Once you die, you simply restart the level with the points total you had when you died. It’s an effective way to try and boost your score so you and your friends can compete for who can get higher, but it has no appreciable effect on the game at all. After all, you could accumulate the same number of points by simply replaying the level after you die.
The good thing is that, because the “Shop” where you buy powers is a completely separate menu option, the game design lends itself to the possibility of other powers being included in future updates. I’m not sure if the game engine would allow it, but the ability to turn invisible for a short amount of time would be great, or maybe something else. Anything, really; as it is, the Shop is wasted on powers that probably should’ve come as standard parts of the game.
The other use that points have in the game is that they are used to unlock levels. There are ten in total and, while there is a slow rise in difficulty each time, it’s never enough of a challenge to frustrate the player. Still, the levels are mostly well-designed and, once you figure out the intuitive controls, you’re flying.
Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Naval mines suspended by balloons? Definitely standard-issue.

Another interesting addition to the game is the presence of power-ups. Or, namely, one power-up; once you reach level three, you will sometimes see rockets hovering in mid-air. If you fly over them, the bat will hop on the rocket and go flying off through the level, bashing through any obstacle in front of you. Except for the walls of the buildings below. Also, flying through clouds will stop you. But the rest of the obstacles don’t stand a chance!

The sound in the game is fantastic: the music is catchy and doesn’t ever seem to get on my nerves, and the sound effects are cute and fun. As you progress to higher levels, your bat actually changes color, as if he is evolving with the world around him, and there’s even a point when the levels change theme completely. The only complaint I really have is that the game seems, as a whole, a bit unpolished. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a grammar freak but a lot of the tips have useless commas and bad sentence structure. It’s certainly nothing that detracts from the gaming experience, but it does scream that this game could’ve done with a few extra QA testers before release.
All in all, The Night Flier is a fun little diversion. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s the game to knock Angry Birds out of the top spot but it is fun and cute and addictive nonetheless (all of which are all the things that Angry Birds owes its success to). If The Night Flier had a bit more polish, I honestly think it would be a strong contender; as is, it’s just a fun game that you can kill some time with.
But what more do you need from an iOS game?

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