Innovation, style, easy to learn yet hard to master and to top all of that, addictive gameplay, that’s what makes these games, especially Airlines 2, a must-have title.
Airlines 2 puts you in the shoes of an airline manager, giving you the tools and access to run the business side rather than the micromanagement side of things, ranging from setting up offices in different cities in the world, trading goods, setting up routes and to buying out your opponents' stocks.
As I unleashed this seemingly 'yet-another-management' game, I was presented with a fantastic, well polished cinematic, showing off what you might call the evolution of transportation, air transportation, after seeing a helium balloon, commercial airliners, concords and magnificent renders of volumetric light, I was ready to take on the challenge.
As I entered the game, I wasn't presented with a tutorial or similar 'learning curve' tools, so I figured I'd give the manual a try; the manual covers everything you need to know to play the game and rapidly gain skills that will, in turn, make you master the game completely, from strategy to advancement, to planning out and expanding your business.
Excited and thrilled with the notion of power, I started building my small humble empire; the game features a very easy to use, easy navigated interface that makes you feel at home. At first glance, you'd think there aren't many options to the game, only to later on discover that the options were simply tidied up to give a more relaxing feel, without having to dig deep to access all the features and combinations for realizing your potential.
The world map consists of a nicely rendered 3D (switch-able to 2D) sphere, where you can sway your havoc into monopolizing the world's airline business, only to find out that you're being pushed to the sides by your competitors; well balanced AI's that will keep you watching over your shoulder on how to expand next. The stock market is always a nice addition to a management game, being an integral part of international commerce; Airlines 2 does not fall short in that aspect.
Along side the world map, you will find the route screen, where you see your current running routs, how much money they make and all of the info that comes with the territory. Also available is the airports screen, where you can setup new routes, based on size, distance and other noticeable factors, with the key phrase being efficient.
On the management side, the way to win, strangely, is to make money (ironic isn't it?); the way to achieve economic superiority is divided into different, strategically different aspects, you might want to invest in cargo delivery, ticket sales, playing the stock market or just mixing all that into one mighty money-milking machine.
Such considerations come in while picking how large the airplane's cargo will be, that would interject with how much goods you can carry along the ride; commodities being plastics, chemicals, food and numerous other tradeable goods. The actual economic model of the game is very solid, with you having to decide how to spend your hard-earned cash if you want to rise somewhere. You have to choose carefully between getting more routes or newer airplanes airplanes and all that will impact the stock market.
The opponent AI isn't dumb either, it tends to be a serious competitor at most times. The good part however is that you don't start direct competition early in the game, since every player is exploring his own territory before getting to the other ones. But when it's happening, they'll give you a run for your money, while slashing down prices and improving their planes in order to attract more customers.
In-game you'll find splendid pre-rendered animations, adding to the overall 'airline' experience, also in-game you will find different animations for each of the newly developed airplane that you can purchase for your business, each having its own strength and weaknesses, providing a lot of mix-n-match potential.
Audio wise, the game serves the purpose, with soothing, non-annoying tracks, decent sound effects that keep you on your edge.
Trying to compare this game with similar games in the very-tight airline management genre (mostly referring to Airline Tycoon) will lead you nowhere, as the two games are essentially different at core, even concept wise, with Airlines 2 reaching out to a more mature and serious audience.
On the weaker points of the game, I'd have to say that game depth is rather limited, as we approach the mid-game, resolving to the same game elements doesn't keep you itching for more (though it does get rather addictive, quite fast I might add).
For a title that is priced at around 35$ CAD, cheaper than some budget titles, will surely lure you to get this wonderfully strategy and management packed title, half a thumb up.