Now Boarding is a tycoon-style resource management game by Gabob where your job is to run an airport, overseeing everything from flight routes, which passengers go on which plane, and even where to put the soda machines! The daunting task of shuttling people across North America has been pared-down to a simple interface that's as easy as matching letters and clicking cities on a map. Now Boarding is remarkably scalable, meaning you can create as complex or simple of an experience as you desire, giving a world of options to those who wish it and nothing more than a simple time management game to those who don't.
Basic gameplay elements in Now Boarding include runways, boarding gates, a waiting area, and a map. Planes arrive on the runway and must be moved to an open gate in order to load it with passengers. Each person in the terminal has a letter that signifies his or her destination city. At first you'll only have a few airports to worry about, but as the game progresses that changes in a very big way. Drag and drop passengers onto planes, then send the craft back to the runway for liftoff.
Before a plane takes to the air, you must set its flight path. Your starting base is Chicago and passengers will have one of several destinations. Depending on who you put on the plane, simply click the city followed by the check mark to confirm the path. Sometimes you'll need to make multiple stops to drop passengers off at the correct airport, so plan your route carefully, as this becomes very important later in the game.
Between rounds you have the option of upgrading many elements of your airport, including the size of your planes and a handful of amenities that makes passengers more content to wait while you sort out their trips. This can be just as important as the main part of the game, as adding new destinations is key to increasing revenue, but it also makes the game much more frantic.
Analysis: Although it caters to the casual gamer in all of us, Now Boarding isn't afraid to push itself into complexity from time to time. The brilliant part is no matter how muddled things seem, you always have a straightforward goal to focus on: getting passengers to their destination. You don't have to buy fancy plants or hot dog stands, you don't have to have big jets, you don't even have to worry about criss-crossing flight paths all over the map. Just put people in seats and get on the runway, it's that simple. That is, unless you want it to be a bit more...
Perhaps one of Now Boarding's most appealing features it that it doesn't feel like your typical resource management game. From early on you have an enormous amount of freedom as to what you can do, what items you can buy/upgrade, and how you play the game. Sure, you can win the early levels without really trying very hard, but once you get into the swing of things, Now Boarding serves up a tremendous amount of challenge. And it's not just the fast-clicking kind of challenge, either, as you have to constantly plan and re-plan which passengers you load onto which planes, which cities each plane will visit and in what order, and deal with the occasional random passenger in a far away city needing to be transported across the country. In short, it's an exhilarating experience, and one that I find is new every time I pick up the game.