Skydiving Games: A Comparison

Posted: April 26, 2009 in Action, Sports

Recently, I tried out the two latest skydiving games to appear in iTunes—Freefall’n and SkyDive.  Both offer similar gameplay in terms of using accelerometer/tilt at the core of their controls, but differ significantly when it comes to visual appeal, level structure, player objectives and depth.

Freefall’n offer 3 modes of play: Easy, Medium, and Expert with the different being in the altitude that you jump thus affecting the amount of time you have before reaching Earth.  The game offers a decent tutorial and you can also calibrate your controls which is a huge plus for those who like to play in positions other than sitting.  Freefall’n also has a catchy soundtrack which can be both pleasant and irritating at the same time if you play this game enough times.  The graphics are decent since they use real aerial photography to add to the feel of the game, but on the other hand, there isn’t much variety visually speaking.  The splash pages are nicely done and they generally illustrate how successful or not you are in your landing (broken leg, shape of skydiver in the ground, etc.).

The objective is simple: collect as many stars and fly through as many rings as you can, while also landing in or as close to the target zone to rack up additional points.  The catch, and there is always one, is that in the process, you also need to collect a red star which is needed to deploy your chute.  Once you collect a red star, a pull lever appears in the right-hand corner of your screen which is activated by swiping down.  It goes without saying, and I try to make this a quick goal each time I play is to collect this as early as possible.  Also the more rings you go through, the bigger you can increase your multiplier which can significantly boost your score.  Strategically speaking, there are different paths of stars and rings to follow with one that leads closer to the landing target which a red bull’s eye.

One of the nice things about Freefall’n is the Trophies or accomplishments that you can attain.  There are 10 trophies which include Star Gazer (175 stars in a single game without passing through any rings), H.A.L.O. (deploy parachute under 500 feet and get a perfect landing), Nothin’ but Net (land with at least a 40x multiplier but without any stars), and Adrenaline Junky (get 1000 total stars in your career).  The controls are extremely responsive and sensitive in a good way, and most of the time, I can move my skydiver in the direction I want by gently tilting.  Also, landing can significantly impact your score because if you miss your target or you fail to deploy your chute, you can a huge part of score deducted.  Freefall’n could use some cosmetic additions including an altimeter scale, wind gauge or even a compass that could further add to the overall of the game.

SkyDive offers various missions which involving landing on targets.  The game has 3 maps: Volcanic Island, Egyptian Island, and American Farmland.  The default map is Volcanic Island and to unlock Egyptian Island and American you need to score 1000 and 2000 points respectively.  You can set the sensitivity of your tilt/accelerometer controls, and I found setting them towards the low end works best for me because I tend to overcompensate.

Visually, the graphics and the animation SkyDive appeals to me more than those found in Freefall’n, and the controls are responsive.  If I want to divebomb (you hit the target without opening your chute), I simply tilt forward…nothing as simple as that.  And, to deploy my chute, I shake the device which is subject to personal preference.

In each map, you’re provided a set of tasks which include things such as landing near the rocks, landing inside the volcano etc.  The closer you land to the bulls eye, the more points you earn.  Scoring is kept for each individual task by time and by points.  During gameplay, some nice touches include a meter showing your distance from the ground as well as a wind gauge for some of the tasks.  The game also includes a pink arrow which appears if you’re off course and is supposed to direct you towards the target, but most of the time, I find this to be hit or miss.  What will happen is many times I will appear to be on target, and then the pink arrow will pop up at the last minute which can mean the difference between hitting target or not.

The additional levels and graphics are SkyDive’s strengths.  What the game needs is additional tasks and missions that would add greatly to the depth and replayability to extend beyond landing or divebombing targets.  Something to consider is incorporating achievements by doing certain tricks or meeting an accomplishment within a record time.  SkyDive.  I really like the physics used in SkyDive, and to further leverage that, the devs should consider adding a trick element to the game where you gain points by doing certain aerial acrobatics.  This would certainly add to the replayability.

Overall, Freefall’n and SkyDive are different enough in terms of gameplay experience and enjoyment that you could conceivably pick up both.  I definitely enjoy the games because one is about collecting and landing, while the other is focused on landing and divebombing.  Something the devs from both sides may experiment with is implementing a first-person view which would certainly add to the realism especially in SkyDive’s case with its current gameplay objectives.  Both games need to continue to add elements that offer replayability.  I think a lot depends on your personal preferences, and the intent here is to provide my experiences to help you make the best decision.


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