Nonsense games (as I like to call them) have become rather popular over recent years. Titles like Goat Simulator, I Am Bread and Octodad: Dadliest Catch, et al. Those games that are really stupid and often offer completely pointless and irrelevant style gameplay. Games that put you in the shoes of weird and wonderful protagonists… or a slice of bread, and allow you to just play around with the game’s world and physics. While nonsense games have become en vogue recently, they’re not exactly new. Back in 1993 there was Monty Python’s Complete Waste of Time game, and it was exactly what the title suggested. I think perhaps one of the more infamous nonsense games came from the unreleased, Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors for the Sega CD. While the game was never officially released, it has been leaked onto the interwebs. Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors was a collection of pointless mini-games, the most (in)famous one being Desert Bus. In it, you have to drive a bus from Tucson, Arizona, to Las Vegas, Nevada, around a 415 mile trip… and you have to do it all in real time too. The bus can’t go any faster than 45mph and the in-game journey takes around eight hours of non-stop ‘play’ to complete. There’s no racing, no interactions, no traffic. Just you, an open desert road and a bus.
Well, developer Hosni Auji has thrown his pilot’s hat into the ring to try and make a nonsense, long haul travel game for a new generation, Airplane Mode. In the game, you are a passenger on a flight in economy class… and that’s about it really.
Your flight is from New York to Reykjavik, which takes around six hours, real-time remember. But if you don’t fancy that, then you can opt for a shorter New York to Nova Scotia, a two hour trip… and yes, I’ve spent the last few hours as a virtual airplane passenger just to to this review. I went for the latter, shorter flight, but I did stick it through till the end.
So, the game doesn’t bore you with having to wait around in the departure lounge, nor do you have to board, find your seat and store your luggage. Airplane Mode starts with you already in your seat… but you do have to go through all the pre-flight safety, taxi to the runway, etc. You even have to endure the pilot’s chit-chat they always do. Being stuck in an airplane seat in economy class offers you a few options. There’s the screen in the back of the seat in front of you. Just like real life, you can use it to watch movies, play games, check on flight info. You can even order your in-flight meal… oh yeah, you get fed on your flight.
Aside from the screen, there’s the pocket on the back of the seat that houses the safety card you always get on flights. The magazine that has articles to read, endless ads for perfume, etc. And it’s all recreated in the game too, yes you can casually flick through the magazine and discover all sorts. There are even puzzles you can enjoy crosswords, sudoku and more.
I must admit, I couldn’t work out how to actually fill in said puzzles as you can’t use the keyboard to type in. So I just put the magazine back, a bit dismayed that I couldn’t actually interact with the puzzles. See, the game doesn’t tell you how to do anything, you just have to move the pointer around and click, see what works. That’s when I discovered my carry on luggage under the seat. My bag was then placed on the seat next to me and I could open it… and there it was, a pen I could pick up and use. Honestly, I felt like I had just discovered the Ark of the Covenant. I quickly picked the flight magazine back up and found not only could I now write with the pen to do the puzzles, I could write, draw and scribble freely.
Putting the magazine and pen back, I explored my bag some more. A novel, an actual novel I could read in game. Against the Grain (À rebours) by J K Huysmans, it’s a real book too that you can buy in real life. There was a USB cable, no idea what it was for, but I plugged it on to the USB slot in the chair regardless, shortly after, I discovered that you have a mobile phone. Yes, you can charge your in-game phone, it has a battery life and everything. So I left my phone charging while I turned my attention back to my bag. A pair of Bluetooth headphones that you can use with the previously mentioned screen to hear what’s being played. Oh, and there’s also a blank note book that you can use to write and draw with the pen, anything you like too…
Now I had my headphones working, I played around with the screen some more. There are three (public domain) films you can watch and even a Buggs Bunny cartoon. I kept exploring, but that was when the flight attendant came over and told me to do my seatbelt.
I began exploring my cramped space and found you can interact with the light and air-con above the seat. Close the blind in the window, pull down the tray, recline the seat. There’s even a sick bag and yes, it is useable too. The PA system interrupted my enjoyment of the Bugs Bunny cartoon as the captain spoke to detail me in on the flight, then after the safety video, we were off into the sky. Honestly, I was really quite impressed with how much detail and interaction there is… for a game where you sit in a seat of an airplane.
When we were firmly up and away, I noticed a little toilet symbol further down the aisle of the plane and I clicked on it. Yup, you can go to the toilet in the game and there’s even more interactions. Turn on the taps, get some soap, use paper towels, lift the toilet seat, flush the toilet. Even the baby changing table can be played with. After which pointless playing around, I returned back to my seat. There was a baby crying in the background, a few minutes later and we hit some turbulence. All of theses in-flight events are random too. You can even sometimes get a faulty screen that refuses to work properly.
Anyway, after the flight attendant dished out the snacks and beer, which I got to choose, it was soon time to land. That’s when I decided to play around with my in-game phone and found even more stuff. Music, a camera option so you can take and even view pics, podcasts. You can listen to podcasts via your phone. I mean, I have told an abridged version of events here, but that two hour flight (no pun) flew by as I was too busy enjoying myself, playing around with all the little things the game allows you to. I’m still not sure that I found everything.
You know what? I actually really enjoyed this. Just remove the concept of you being stuck on a long haul flight and you have a fun little toybox to play around with here. Crosswords, sudoku, real films, in-flight magazine to read, a book, music to listen to and more. There are a few things that let the experience down. More puzzles in the magazine would be great. It seems to be the same puzzles in the magazine every time you play. I did restart the flight several times to check, even launched the longer six hour flight too. Every time I did, I got the exact same magazine with the exact same puzzles. So it would be nice to see some variation in the puzzles that are there and even add more variety of puzzles too. How about some spot the differences, word-searches, etc?
Maybe some more (public domain) books? There’s loads of great, classic short stories and novels out there that are free to read which could be included in the game with ease and at no cost. More PD movies would be great. If they got that Bugs Bunny cartoon as PD, then there are plenty more that could be included. How about different classes? Being stuck in economy is something many of us are used to. So why not let us experience business class or even first class flights?
In all honesty, I really enjoyed this far more than I thought I would. If they add more features in future updates (see my suggestions), Airplane Mode could really get very interesting. In all honesty, it really is just a façade for being able to enjoy public domain works or draw cocks in a notebook, there’s nothing wrong with that either. I had a load of fun playing around with what the game offered, it just needs a bit more meat on the bones to add to it’s value. But what is here is surprisingly fun. I mean, just how many games can you think of where you can watch Bugs Bunny cartoons while drawing a picture of some huge (if somewhat angular) boobies?