I love simulation games, this may mean my proceeding review may appear slightly biased or opinionated in certain areas but I’ll try and keep it as balanced as I can. Airport Simulator from Toplitz Productions came as a surprise outing on the PS4 as I’ve played the 2014 version on PC but never thought it would ever hit consoles. For those who are unaware of the overall premise, Airport Simulator 2019 is a micromanagement game in which you run an airport by either operating all of the vehicles yourself or paying various staff members to perform the tasks for you.
Sure, the game can get a little mundane and repetitive to both simulator fans and newcomers, but there is something about this game which made me want to come back to it whenever I had a few minutes spare – let’s find out why…
The premise for the entire game is very simple in nature, as I stated above. You’re the manager of a major international airport which handles numerous flights per day. However, for some reason (I’m ad-libbing here), all of your staff have decided to either go on strike or quit without notice, thus leaving you to run the entire airport yourself! As such, you will begin with smaller aeroplanes as you chose two or three which you wish to service throughout the day and perform everything from picking up passengers to refuelling the plane. Over time, you’ll be able to employ new staff, to replace the ones who deserted you, and put them to work on either bought or rented vehicles as you strive to make as much money as you can.
The game doesn’t end there though, you’ll soon be able to afford new runways, gates, new exotic vehicles and even upgrade each of the ones you bought to improve on their stats and abilities. You can literally either perform everything yourself or just sit back and watch the people you hire do everything for you – everything can be micromanaged as much or little as you wish. So, with the basic story, which may or may not be 100% accurate to what the devs were going for, out the way – what’s the game actually like to play?
The day of Manager Rob…
I think the best way to explain how Airport simulator 2019 works is to give you a brief overview of a standard day as the jack-of-all-trades manager who’s in charge of this surprisingly still active airport.
Your day begins at 6 am where you must choose which flights you wish to deal with (initially you can support two planes throughout the day but this is increased later on). Picking the flights can be a bit cumbersome as you have to tap down on the Left stick each time you wish to go down, and then back up to return to the top to accept your selection. You can’t hold down the Left stick in order to quickly scroll – which is a big oversight if you ask me. Each flight comes with a set number of ‘tasks’ and a monetary amount you will receive upon completion of all the jobs.
Once you accept your daily tasks and confirmed you are happy with the roster, our new day begins – almost. You’re in the Headquarters at this point which is where you can manage everything from what vehicles you own/rent to who you’re hiring or plan to hire. You begin with £150k so it’s time to go crazy – Hire a few members of staff if you wish (staff always start working for you at a set date in the future, so you’ll have to manage a few days without any help) or purchase/rent some new vehicles to help you out with your new tasks. Each vehicle requires a certain staff member, which can be seen in the vehicles info page – for example, a Fuel Transport requires an Engineer at level one with truck driving skills at level two, whereas a bus only requires a truck driver at level one.
Once you’re happy with how you’ve spent/wasted your money, hold R1 or L1 and tap right on the Left stick to move to your ‘flights’ menu. This shows you what flights you added to your workload and lets you see the time they are due in/to leave and a shadow of what vehicles are needed. I would have liked it if it told you what the vehicles were so you could think ahead and forward-plan, but nevermind. The game can operate in various time modes from x0 all the way up to x20. Yes, x1 is real time – so 1 hour in-game will take 1 hour in real life. Airport Simulator 2014 never had any speed options so we all modded the game back then in order to give us a speed boost, thankfully we don’t have to with the 2019 iteration. There is also a handy ‘Next Event’ button (Triangle) which when pressed will skip time all the way up until the next plane’s first task is avaliable!
In the new game I’m on right now, my first flight was 18:30, so a tap of Triangle sped the game forward to 18:25 in a matter of seconds, rather than having to wait 12.5 hours – this isn’t Shenmue! Once you have a task, simply click the flight with a green indicator and see what is required, in this instance the plane requires a bus. As I have no staff, I choose which bus I wish to use (I only have one) and I opt to drive it myself. Suddenly, you’re taken into a third person view of the vehicle and you now have direct control with standard driving controls – R2 and L2 for forwards and backwards. Simply drive to the designated spot and then see if there is another task to do or fast forward time with the D-pad until the next event occurs.
My first day as manager will see me not only drive the bus to pick people up and drop them off, but I’ll also have to drive over a fuel tanker and a baggage cart to unload the luggage. The second plane I had chosen, which isn’t due until 20:00, only requires a bus and the baggage carts. Once the day is over you can either leave your vehicles out in the open and risk them becoming damaged by the weather (I guess), or you can drive them all back into the Headquarters and park them up so that they stay in one piece to drive again another day.
Rinse and repeat:
That’s pretty much the gist of the game – it’s a calm, relaxing game with a pleasant soundtrack and therapeutic gameplay. A few days in you’ll have a plane with five or six tasks which you need to perform within a set time limit (the limit is usually around 30 real-life minutes) which will require you to use new vehicles which you may not have used before. In this instance, you have three options. You can either buy the vehicle to do the task if you have enough money (unlike people, vehicles appear straight away for use), rent the vehicle (the same as buying but you pay a set amount per month instead of a lump sum), or you can just choose an option to pay a set amount and have some ghosts perform the job for you instantly.
In my actual save file, which I’ve been playing on, I’m at a point where I have up to six planes to tend too and the number of tasks can reach up to eleven in order to get my payment as a successful job! It does get quite insane and expensive if you don’t own all the vehicles you need. As I stated at the beginning, if you go into the game thinking it’s going to be action-packed and intense then you’re going to come away from Airport simulator 2019 very disappointed. If you go into it knowing that it’s a casual game which focuses heavily on the micromanagement of the general activities of the airport – then you’re more likely to enjoy it more and appreciate it for what it is.
It’s like Train Sim World, I really enjoyed that game but I can see why some people may not enjoy it’s repetitive and simplistic nature – to those people I would just say that these types of games most likely aren’t for them.
Please work for me!
There are plenty of people to hire in Airport simulator 2019 but not everyone is actually worth offering a job too. If you have vehicles which require a level two truck driver then there is no point hiring a load of level ones, as they won’t even get behind the wheel. However, once you have a decent crew of staff which are trained for the job you want to assign them too, the game becomes much easier and maybe a little too mundane for those who don’t like simulation games where you just watch what’s going on. You can basically sit back and assign a vehicle and driver to each of the tasks as they pop up and let them deal with everything for you. This is essential if you want to meet some of the later deadlines as well, so don’t take too long before you hire people.
One thing I didn’t realise until a few hours in, for reasons I’ll explain below, is that you can actually assign hired members to the engineering shelter and the fuel pumps. If you do this, you can either manually or tell an employee to drive a vehicle to either get refuelled or upgraded. I also didn’t realise this for a while but only bought vehicles can be upgraded whereas both rented and bought ones can be refuelled. An upgraded vehicle can be made to drive faster, last longer on fuel and work faster. The process in Airport Simulator 2014 was much simpler as you just had a menu and you click on what you wanted to upgrade, here you have to perform manual steps which seemed a bit fiddly – but I get the immersion it’s trying to get across.
That’s pretty much the entire experience you’ll have with Airport Simulator 2019 – manage your vehicles and upcoming staff hires before you start your shift, fast forward to your first task, either perform the said task or get your staff to do it for you, repeat for all the required tasks, profit. Oh yeah, then park everyone in the HQ at the end of the day so the wind doesn’t blow them over or the rain doesn’t get them wet I suppose. Although, I’m joking about with the wind, but I did have a few occurrences where I would set a crewmember to do a job and when I checked in on them for taking ages, they had flipped upside down and were just lying in the middle of the runway with the vehicles ass in the air! I imagine a passing plane had knocked into them or something, it was quite amusing!
Speaking of bugs and glitches, as with all simulation games, Airport Simulator 2019 has its fair share. There isn’t a lot but there are enough to annoy me in certain places. First of all, as I mentioned a few times above, I didn’t 100% know how to play the game because the tutorial doesn’t work. You get so far into the tutorial until it tells you to select something and press X. However, no matter what you do, you can’t get the game to register that you’ve pressed X and it won’t move on, thus you’re not actually taught everything you need to know – which is quite a big issue in a simulation game. The next UI issue I had was with the in-game menus. Most of the time they are fine – they are clunky in terms of how you mechanically move from menu to menu, but technically they work. Although, certain menus obstruct the button prompts in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. I know you’re thinking “that’s only button prompts, who cares” – well, I do. Certain menus change what the button prompts say and they also tell you what the icon you’re on actually means. For example, the ‘rent’ option for a vehicle is a key and the buy option is a basket – you can make out what the prompt says but only just because the window overlaps the words. I would love the devs to take a look at the UI and just juggle things around so that nothing is obstructed.
I was also a bit disappointed with the overall UX of Airport Simulator 2019. Small things like the UI as above, the fact you can’t hold up or down to progress fast through the lists, the cumbersome menu management and the lack of hints or tips on how to perform various actions outside of the broken tutorial really left me with mixed opinions about the game. Hopefully the developers read this and takes it as feedback on how to make the game a bit more user-friendly –
other than the tutorial, the game isn’t broken, it just takes a while to get used to.
**Update – Today (31st Jan 2019) I realised that Airport Simulator 2019 actually had an update released which I never noticed. Upon loading it up, I realised most of my issues above had been resolved. The tutorial is now working fine, the text is now in front of any open menus, and certain buttons and options which weren’t easy to highlight previously now work fine. As such, I’ll leave the info above, albeit with a strikethrough, but the game is much more user-friendly now.**
Graphically, Airport Simulation 2019 looks like your standard simulation game from Germany. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but if you take a look at the multitude of simulation games on the PC, and even on the PS4, there is a bunch of them which originate from Germany and they all have a very similar design style and aesthetic. The textures are rather basic in places, the designs are quite blocky and the overall feeling is a budget title if i’m being brutally honest. However, as with all simulation games, the core appeal of these games comes in the form of its gameplay mechanics and not in their visual design.
In terms of the sound quality, the music is pleasant and a decent length before it repeats itself seamlessly. Its nice and relaxing, like the music you’ll hear in games like Pic-a-Pix, Word Search by POWGI and Fill-a-Pix. It’s the kind of music you wouldn’t mind having on whilst playing Airport Simulator 2019 for 20-30 minutes at a time as you play through each in-game day. The actual sound effects are nothing to write home about, yet they also aren’t anything to complain about either – they sound okay and I personally have no issues with them.
So, do I think Airport Simulator 2019 is worth picking up on the PS4? That question is much harder than usual, simply because of what type of game it is and the niche market this game aims to fulfil. If you like simulation games in which you micromanage everything from the hiring of staff, purchasing of vehicles, telling people when to refuel and go for an upgrade, as well as picking your daily workload and jumping in to help with vehicles your staff can’t yet drive – then I’m sure you’ll really enjoy this title. I love my Train Sim World and Farming Simulator on the PS4 and Train Simulator and Euro Truck Simulator on the PC, so I’m a fan of performing monotonous and repetitive tasks in order to work towards a similar goal each time.
As such, I actually have a soft spot for Airport Simulator 2019 even though the flaws did originally annoy me and had me questioning if I should carry on playing it or not. I’m glad I did carry on, but I did have to work out how the various stations like the upgrade and fuel facilities worked by myself, which led to a lot of confusion and misunderstandings! However, your mileage will vary based on how tolerant you are to games like this and if this is actually a genre you’re interested in or if you were just looking for an easy platinum – which you won’t find here as the devs have confusingly opted to not include a platinum! That’s another oversight by the developers – if they would have put in a platinum then I’m sure sales would have been much more from all of the trophy hunters looking for an easy trophy in their collection – maybe next time?
Airport Simulator 2019 goes a good job of recreating the micromanagement of an international airport. Whether you like the genre or not, you can’t argue that the developers have created a game which replicates what life would be like if you ran an airport and you were the only member of staff (until you hire some later on). Sure, the graphics aren’t amazing and the overall mechanics of the game are quite simple yet hid behind some confusing and cumbersome menus, but once you’ve got to grips with the various processes, Airport Simulator is a great game to settle down with if you have 20-30 minutes to spare and you don’t want to play anything too taxing on your brain.
If you’re looking for hardcore action and mind-blowing visuals then this game probably isn’t for you, but if you enjoy doing monotonous tasks or winding down at the end of the day with something which will relax you then maybe give Airport simulator 2019 a chance. One thing I would say though, the game is currently £24.99 on PSN, I would personally say that I think that’s too expensive – this is a perfect £14.99 game – £24.99 seem too much for people who are unsure to invest in.
Airport Simulator 2019£24.99
- Lots of different vehicles to drive or micromanage
- Pleasant music to help you relax whilst playing the game
- The game gets progressively more manic as you get given more tasks and have more people to manage
- You can hire staff or do it all yourself whilst also buying vehicles or renting them - anything you own can also be upgraded
- Great game to just pick up and play in short bursts
- No Platinum trophy
- The tutorial broke on me, so I had to work out most of the game for myself
- Quite a few UX issues as I've listed above
- Anyone who's not a fan of the simulation genre will most likely find the gameplay monotonous and mundane
- Visually the game isn't very appealing on modern consoles