Day 159: AvaGlide

Posted: 2011/04/17 in Indie Games

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game (XBLIG) every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and are not well represented in the top 50 lists on the Xbox Dashboard. Today is day #159, and today’s game is “AvaGlide”.

While some people credit PilotWings as being the flight game that got them hooked for me it was “NiGHTS into Dreams” on the Sega Saturn and Dreamcast game AeroWings. Perhaps even more than PilotWings, NiGHTS and AeroWings are both games that revel in the freedom and joy of flight for its own sake. AvaGlide is another game in that esteemed heritage and, at 80 Microsoft Points, certainly a much nicer price than the $65 I paid for AeroWings over a decade ago.

First, from the developer (Haiku Interactive):

“Take your Avatar hang gliding over beautiful islands and an active volcano. Race through Ring Rush, collect stars in Star Smash, hit your targets in Delivery Dash, or simply unwind and explore in Free Flight. Three unique settings and nine challenges, all with online scoreboards. Take to the skies TODAY!”

Some people have criticised avatar-based games as being quick and dirty cash-ins, and this is only the second one I’ve reviewed in 159 consecutive reviews. However, no one would mistake AvaGlide for that, from the moment the game starts up the game oozes polish, particularly the slick menus and the wealth of options on offer. If you’re like me, where all the 3D games of your youth were flight simulators, you’ll want to turn on “inverted” Y-Axis (though pushing forward to point your nose down has always seemed the correct way to me, and why it’s called “inverted” I’ll never know), and turn off auto-centring for that hardcore ’80s flight-sim feel. You also have full camera control at all times, and the ability to hide the heads-up display (HUD) either for greater challenge or to have less text in the way of your pure zen flying moment.

The game has four primary modes: Star Smash, Delivery Dash, Ring Rush, and Free Flight. Star Smash has you gathering stars before the time runs out; Delivery Dash has you dropping crates on targets (usually at different heights, something simple in a plane but not so simple on a glider); Ring Rush is the most NiGHTS-like, with you racing through airborne rings before time runs out; Free Flight has you just enjoying the scenery and sensation of gliding through the attractive environments. Online leaders for the first three give the game replay value, and the game gives you the additional motivation of showing you the score you’re shooting for to move up in the global rankings (the second game to do so that I’ve run into, after MotorHEAT pioneered it in the Xbox Live Indie Games channel).

Did I mention the graphics are beautiful? The game’s soundtrack invokes some of the feel of NiGHTS and AeroWings, and other flight games that aren’t combat simulators. The graphics are a cut above with nice water effects, reflections, and more. Mountains are convincing looking, and the visual polish not only is nice to look at but helps you maintain your bearings as you fly around the islands in the game.

All of this would be for not if the game’s controls soured the experience, but thankfully they’re spot-on, and I never found myself losing altitude or stalling for any reason other than my own errors. To excel in this game you’ll need to know how to get yourself to the right altitude and the right speed by diving and climbing, and also using warm columns of air (thermals) to literally give your glider a lift. Particle effects and birds riding them held identify where the thermals are, and settling on a route that makes best use of them is the key.

By this point in the review you’ll already know if it’s worth $1 to you, but this is an extremely polished game with a wealth of options and gorgeous presentation for an extraordinarily reasonable price. If you’ve ever enjoyed a flight game before, especially one that revels in flight for its own sake, you can’t go wrong with AvaGlide.

Click here to download “AvaGlide”, and then please come back after playing to rate the game.



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