Glu Games follows up its original "Glyder" with an exploration flight sim that doesn't quite soar to the heights of perfection, but makes it close enough that every iPhone and iPod Touch owner not specifically searching for guns, zombies, and/or stuff to blow up would do well to give this one a serious look.

Glyder 2 Review

There’s a song from early last century that goes something like:

You made me love you.
I didn’t want to do it,
I didn’t want to do it…

These exact lyrics popped into my mind about an hour into Glyder 2. I had seethed at the game’s opening moments: after a loading screen that provides the barest hint of a plot while invoking too much technobabble for its own good and a quick instructional on basic controls, the game dumped me straight onto a level select screen ignorant as to what the protagonist’s goal is or why she needs to fly around to complete it. I tapped on what appeared to be a wintry stage from among the first available options, leapt off the level’s starting platform, and, not yet acclimated to the finer points of flying, promptly splat into a mountainside. Lacking the benefit of having played Glu’s first Glyder I felt alienated. My experience with Glyder 2 started off on a nosedive the game couldn’t hope to pull out of unless it had quite a lot to offer once I became more familiar with the control scheme.

Offer quite a lot, it did!

Once I thoroughly perused the game’s Progress Log – a lengthy list of nonlinear goals that serves as Glyder 2‘s main source of guidance – I gleaned that the player character is tinkerer-turned-adventurer Eryn, who’s gotten herself into a bit of a pickle and hopes she can return to her home dimension by assembling what boils down to a giant Rube Goldberg machine.  At heart Glyder 2 is a flight sim with a strong focus on exploration. No aerial dogfights to be had here; Eryn’s job is to scour every nook and cranny of the game’s widely varying locales for parts, gameplay revolving around careful management of her airspeed and altitude whilst maneuvering. “Achievements” listed alongside necessary tasks in the Progress Log challenge the player to exercises appropriate for learning the finer points of flight.

That Glyder 2‘s main challenges stem from mastering flight itself is an excellent design decision on Glu’s part considering that the player accomplishes all maneuvering by tilting the iPhone itself — up to climb at the expense of airspeed; down to dive and gain airspeed while yielding altitude; left and right to bank appropriately. If the screen were filled with threats other than terrain the minor visual distraction inherent in tilting one’s iPhone might derail the experience, but as it stands Glyder 2‘s control scheme meshes perfectly with the nature of Eryn’s quest. Certain tasks are more easily accomplished once the player equips Eryn with special wings plucked from treasure chests, each set sporting its own flight properties and bonuses.

At first glance level design seems to underwhelm, but once again early impressions prove inadequate. The barren desert oasis and snow-covered mountainside available at the outset appear limited and plain until the player begins exploring more fully; much of the desert level lies in expansive underground chambers and successful exploitation of thermal updrafts reveals the wintry mountainside to be a sprawling vertical spire with item-filled tunnels coursing through it.  The player manually discovers additional levels through free-roaming flight, some locales having to be revealed via goal completion before Eryn can travel there. I found the later levels simply jaw-dropping in their breadth, complexity, and general impressiveness. One takes place in the game world’s gear-filled stratosphere following a daring climb while another consists of eerily suspended volcanoes and earthbound lava pits spewing needed items, daring the player to nab them without getting scorched.

Glyder 2 is perfectly presentable graphically, with most detail devoted to Eryn’s character model at the expense of landscape.  Thanks to a dynamic environment loading system that reveals only a certain range of the topography at any given moment, voyages across the game world’s vast sea in search of new stages are not only visually lonely, but sometimes disorienting, with precious few visual cues as to where new land might lie; sometimes discoveries seem best accomplished by probing runs in random directions. The game’s overworld map allows instantaneous travel among already-visited areas but provides only the vaguest guidance in directing the player to new landmasses that must be accessed manually. I couldn’t shake the feeling that a compass built into Eryn’s heads-up display would have been most useful at times.

Unfortunately a single looping track furnishes musical accompaniment for Eryn’s entire journey. It’s an excellent, soothing piece of music that remains amicable enough during the six-plus hour span of a first playthrough, and yet I felt a tune devoted to each of the game’s drastically differing environments could have added some real “oomph” to the more awe-inspiring locales. Glu lets the player select tracks from the iPhone’s music playlist but the fact that sound effects vanish when this option is exercised neuters it as a quick solution.



iFanzine Verdict: Despite what may be a stumbling first impression for players new to the franchise, Glyder 2is certainly a must-have for any iPhone/iPod Touch owner remotely into flight simulation — provided, of course, the consumer isn’t itching to step into the shoes of a combat ace. This gem will also appeal strongly to adventure enthusiasts. The content is among that rare and wondrous breed that can be enjoyed equally by a wide range of ages; parents can feel at ease with this in their children’s palms, and yet I found myself thoroughly overcome by nostalgia for some of the great adventure games of the 32/64-bit era.