X-Plane: New Heights in webOS 3D Gaming | webOS Nation

X-Plane: New Heights in webOS 3D Gaming 26

by Jonathan I Ezor#IM Fri, 08 Jan 2010 5:52 pm EST

During the launch of (official) 3D gaming for webOS at the Palm CES presentation, the games that got the most attention (and live demos) were Need for Speed Shift and The Sims 3 from EA Mobile. Among the new games, though, was another title which while less well known to most consumers is revolutionary in its own right: X-Plane ($9.99), by Laminar Research. (You can see the full description of X-Plane in PreCentral's new App Catalog Gallery here.) For avid or even casual flight simulation fans, X-Plane for webOS is the real deal.

X-Plane developed initially as an open-source desktop alternative to products such as Microsoft Flight Simulator, and has since grown into a sophisticated, multi-platform simulation tool available for Linux, Windows, Mac and a growing number of smartphones, now including the Palm Pre. While the webOS and other smartphone versions of X-Plane are not as sophisticated as the desktop clients, they do include multiple aircraft, quality sound, configurable views, modeled flight dynamics, and weather and other options. They also display sophisticated, smooth 3-D graphics (although please note that the images below are from the X-Plane Mobile portion of Laminar’s Web site and are likely from the iPhone version; the Pre’s built-in screenshot feature cannot capture full-screen X-Plane images, and in any event the products are substantially the same in look and operation.)

As with the iPhone version, X-Plane for webOS maintains a horizontal orientation and uses the accelerometer and touch screen for all its controls. Basic flight is simple; the throttle is controlled through taps or slides on the left edge of the screen, the flaps on the right edge, brakes and landing gear through taps on specific regions at the bottom, and menu across the top:


I have not used X-Plane on the desktop but have flown multiple versions of Flight Simulator over the years, and I was able to take off, fly and even land (a bit bouncily, to be sure) almost immediately after launching the game on my Pre. I probably should have at least glanced at the manual (available for the iPhone version as a zipped PDF via this link) or at least the section on the top menu, since the function of most of the 8 icons was not immediately clear. Per the numbered legend in the manual:

the tappable menus are:

  1. Default cockpit view (with heads-up display, or HUD)
  2. External view (which can be rotated and zoomed in/out using standard Pre gestures, like the spotter plane in Microsoft Flight Simulator)
  3. Spot view (a stationary view from which to watch the plane)
  4. Linear spot view (a moving spot whose position is set by the program)
  5. Menu, with tabs for Map, Region, Plane (you have a choice of 7: the Cessna 172, Columbia 400, Piper Malibu, Cirrus Vision, Piaggio Avanti, Beech King-Air and Eclipse-Jet 500), Weight, Time, Sky, Wxr (weather), Set (useful for selecting a center pitch and roll for the accelerometer), and Multi (allowing multiplayer flights within the same Wi-Fi network; as I’m the only Pre owner in my family, I wasn’t able to test this, but may try it with my son’s iPod Touch), plus a Done button to return you to the main view
  6. Pause (although launching another app or just minimizing the card automatically pauses, unlike on the iPhone version which lacks multitasking, of course!)
  7. Panel view (with detailed gauges and other instruments); to leave it, tap the top of the screen to show the hidden menu icons, and select a different one
  8. Displays aerodynamic forces acting on your plane

Taking to the air itself is simple: flaps to the bottom and throttle to the top for maximum settings, tap “Brake” to release the parking brake and you’re moving. As you gather speed, you’ll steer along the runway by turning your Pre like a steering wheel; once you have enough velocity to get airborne, tilt the top of your Pre closer to you and off you go. Once in the air, don’t forget to tap Gear to raise the landing gear, and gently reduce flaps down to zero as you gain speed. Bank the plane as you steered on the runway, and tilt the top forward and backward to lower and raise the nose. Watch yourself, though, or you’ll end up in “Flaming death,” at which point you simply tap the Settings menu icon, pick a new flight and start again. (A lot better than failing your solo in pilot’s school!) Once you get the hang of basic flying, you can start viewing the scenery, trying aerobatics and even returning to the runway to land (or trying to anyway).

In what may be a hint of future developments, Laminar offers multiple mobile apps for the iPhone, including X-Plane Airliner, Extreme, Carrier, Racing and others. There is also a free iPhone version called X-Plane Trainer, which would be a great addition to the Pre’s App Catalog and likely bring in more customers who are initially leery of paying $9.99 for an unknown app, especially if they haven’t tried flight simulators in the past. A smaller training app would also likely be a faster and less cumbersome download than the current version (a massive 205664k when installed, according to my Pre). It would also be great if Laminar offered additional downloadable regions and aircraft for this program. In the meantime, though, if you are a fan of flight simulation on your desktop, you can feel confident that X-Plane for webOS is a great way of taking your flying fun with you wherever you and your Pre may land.


Great graphics


Pricier than many other games