Game Review - by James Allen
If there is one type of game that has a seriously hardcore following, that's flight simulators. People spend countless hours logging hours flying around in a virtual world, attempting to land at O'Hare in a Boeing 747 with a crosswind. Many good (and some not so good) flight sims have come out recently. Most of them focus on small commercial or personal aircraft, with high-tech jet engines and such. Not Micro-Flight. As its name slightly implies, the planes in Micro-Flight are gliders or one kind or another (plus a car). Can this independent game fill the void of gliding craft we, the gaming public, so long for?
Micro-Flight ships with four aircraft (a glider, hang glider, trike, and ultralight), and one car. The features which come with Micro-Flight are pretty extensive. You can fly or drive around an extensive area, modeled after southern France. The atmospheric model simulates the airflow over the 3D terrain, which is pretty cool when you catch updrafts in a glider. If the wind isn't enough, you can be towed by another plane or a car. Your planes even come with guns to blow the mess out of the countryside.
There are also several situations that you can enter. These include hang gliding near a ridge, being towed by a car, and driving at dusk. There is even a "mini-game" where you must find thermals to stay afloat. These add more quick ways to experience what Micro-Flight has to offer. On top of all that, multiplayer is available over the Internet. Racing your friends around waypoints in gliders is pretty cool. The Micro-Flight website is constantly updated with new additions to the program, further expanding the longevity of this program. I was surprised at the numerous different features in Micro-Flight.
Sound is pretty basic in Micro-Flight. Not many sounds are needed in a flight simulator, and this program reflects this notion. You'll be confronted by a total of two sounds: the engine and the wind. But, what other sounds really exist in gliders. Most people use gliders to get away from it all, and only the sound of the passing breeze is what they meet. Thus, the lack of any extensive sounds in Micro-Flight is excusable, but more could have been done.
The flight model is admirable. A feeling of floating on air, which is what is actually happening, overcomes the pilot. Encountering an updraft is a sudden and surprising experience, especially when it is a fast one. Using a tow plane is a helpful procedure, especially for aircraft without engines. You can then disconnect from the tower, and glide your way to freedom. To makes things even more realistic, there is a dynamic weather model. Weather is constantly changing (isn't that an oxymoron?), and you can change the rate at which your surroundings become inhospitable. With the changing weather, an accurate and engaging flight experience is found in Micro-Flight.
The driving model is less impressive, but this is a flight simulator. You can drive anywhere you want (even over lakes), and being up close and personal to the roads and mountains of the simulated region is an added bonus to the game. Nevertheless, being an extra, driving around the environments is a fine addition.
Graphics are neat, with one exception. All of the cockpits are rendered in three dimensions, and really give a level of realism. The ground textures are derived from aerial photographs, but since the blocks that make up the ground are rather large, the ground looks blocky and inconsistent. It is strange to see large trees overlying ground textures that are supposed to be at a much smaller scale. Cloud and weather effects are darn cool. As long as you can get past the blocky looking ground, the graphics in Micro-Flight are excellent.
Micro-Flight is a neat little program. If you enjoy the gliding aspects of flight, then the game is definitely recommended. While other flight simulations such as Flight Simulator, X-Plane, and Fly! concern themselves with larger aircraft, Micro-Flight tackles and effectively covers floating on air. With an ever-expanding number of features and add-ons, this program certainly isn't ultralight.