Appiphilia: Maverick and the Iceman cometh (back) to Top Gun to goose the iPhone

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From left, Goose and Maverick soak up all their lessons, including in well-gelled hair and massive sunglasses, in the 1986 movie ‘Top Gun.’ Credit: Paramount Pictures

For those of us who hear the echo of electric guitar licks and can see smoke wafting upward from an aircraft carrier upon hearing the words “top gun,” the newly released game from Paramount Digital Entertainment allows us to live out an adolescent fantasy -- taking out bogeys with Iceman and Maverick.

This is the sixth title the group has released in the year it’s been turning some of its earlier movie franchises into games for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Among its other titles are Iron Man: Aerial Assault (99 cents), Days of Thunder (99 cents) and School of Rock (99 cents).

According to Matt Candler, vice president of interactive development at Paramount, there’s been a huge learning curve from the group’s first game, Saturday Night Fever (99 cents) and its best-selling Shooter (99 cents).


“We thought Saturday Night Fever fit better with casual gamers,” he said. As it turned out, the musical game space was already being dominated by games such as Tap Tap Revenge (free).

In terms of looking forward, Candler spoke eagerly about the release of iPhone OS 3.0 and ...

... the possibility of offering new levels without having to remake the entire game -- and the ever-important ability to monetize it. “It’s mostly the ability to extend [the games] -- and quickly be able to do that.”

After 3.0 comes out, gamers should expect about four or five more titles this year from Paramount. Among the titles will be a puzzle game building on itsMean Girls franchise, Candler said. Also, for fans of Marvel Comics, look in the near future for the Hulk and several others born out of the Justice League -- possibly Thor.

Candler, who previously spent several years at Activision, said the big draw to the iPhone as a gaming platform was the lack of real file-size restrictions and the accessibility of 3-D. They are considering Android and RIM platforms down the road, but the file-size restrictions and graphic limitations are a deterrent.

Of course, the lithe group isn’t just focused on games for smartphones and mobile devices. Candler says they’ve been moving on to the console, with games set to launch for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 this year and for the PC, Wii and Nintendo DS next year. Paramount Digital already announced Star Trek DAC for Xbox and PS 3 will be coming soon to a console near you.

And now for the review...

Top Gun ($1.99)

What it is: You’re the new maverick at the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School, a.k.a. Top Gun Academy. Iceman and Maverick are your instructors. On your 10 missions, you’re flying craft such as the F-22 Raptor and the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, but still weaving out of the way of incoming missiles and knocking out enemy MiGs.

What sizzles: The game works in nods to those of us who have seen the movie way too many times to admit in public. Familiar characters pop in to ride you and pat you on the back for your reckless flying. The music is reminiscent of the ‘80s movie’s theme song and anthem. (If you listen very carefully, you can hear that it’s not an exact replica of the movie’s music.)

The missions are carried out in different environments with obstacles and targets in the air and on the ground: oceans, deserts, canyons and city centers, both during the day and at night. The graphics really are engaging, with the light effects mirroring the time of day and the angle of the plane.

In my playing as ‘Chelle Shock,’ flying became progressively more manageable. Being able to calibrate the device within each level is a nice perk, meaning you can shift your body orientation while playing without a true interruption. You could even play lying on your back if you wanted to.

I like being able to tackle the missions in either Story Mode (to follow the story arc and mission progression) and Instant Action (to replay completed missions).

Each completed mission unlocks the next. You earn medals, too, as you complete feats and missions. Missions and medals are marked ‘classified’ until you’ve earned access.

The cut scenes are a nice inclusion. You’ll notice that you can still control your plane while in the intra-level cut scenes during the action. Targeted bogeys will still blow up as well in these different camera angles.

The game has a decent rock soundtrack that goes beyond the remade movie songs. But you can listen to the soundtrack of your choice. The music on your iPod will play through while you’re playing the game if you’re listening to it when you launch the app. I had a truly surreal ‘80s experience listening to Madonna’s ‘Everybody’ while chilling with Mav and Iceman.

Although I’m still stuck on Mission 3 -- Rules of Engagement -- navigation comes fairly naturally. The flying is on rails, so bad drivers like me won’t crash into the hillside or the ocean. You’ll be shot out of the sky, but you won’t crash. Of course, you can eject, but you won’t earn your Purple Heart.

What fizzles: A little nostalgia goes a long way when it comes to the danger zone stuff. The areas to avoid are ‘danger zones,’ so they flash on the screen all the time. Plus, the ‘Danger Zone'-styled music is nice, but not something I wanted to spend as much time with.

Bottom line: You get to buzz the tower -- who doesn’t want to do that? But being a Maverick in training, fliers might want the ability to go off the rails a little more every once in a while.

Corrected, 11:13 a.m. Thursday: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this post misidentified Tap Tap Revenge as Tap Tap Revenue.

-- Michelle Maltais

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