You wouldn't think that penguins are much of a subject for discussion, let alone a focal point of one of the most successful upgrade-centric launch games of recent years, would you?. If you think either of these things however, you must not have encountered the determined, inventive, and down-right brave penguins of the Learn to Fly trilogy, whose determination to disprove the apparent biological "fact" that penguins are flightless birds results in a very addictive experience for the players that are in charge of guiding these soon-to-be-flightful birds through the air and on to upgrades and infamy. Launch games are rarely as quirky as these three wonderful titles, but what is most impressive is looking at the progression through the series and the improvements/enhancements that are evidence with each release. So instead of spending precious time playing through each of the games and deciding for yourself which is the best, let this short article guide you through the particulars of each game and the ways in which they both differ from and are similar to each other.
Learn to Fly
Every series that turns out to be fantastic must start somewhere, and this particular series' debut is the original Learn to Fly. Though this first game is a relatively simple experience, this is to be expected from any first title, and it is in this simplicity that the series built its foundations. Everything that is present in the games thatesulted can be owed to this first release. The gameplay involves sending a penguin down a ramp and then into the air, controlling his mid-flight orientation with the left/right arrows, and all with one simple aim: to get as far as possible with the equipment that you have.
And this equipment in the early stages isn't a lot, really. You have just your penguin to begin with, but are able to upgrade to various gliders, rockets, and a much larger ramp, that is after you earn enough money through repeated attempts at flying in order to be able to afford them. In this sense, this game is a little like one of the most popular and impressive launch games of all time, Berzerk Ball 2, only a little more sparse on content and simpler in approach. The upgrades in Learn to Fly definitely give it somewhat of an edge over many simpler launch games like Puffle Launch, allowing you something to work towards instead of launching repeatedly with no ladder of progression.
For a first-title game, Learn to Fly is also quite a well-designed piece of art, and though the textures/colours are pretty simple, care and attention have gone into its aesthetics, which are well above average for a flash game.
Learn to Fly 2
The follow-up to a brilliant original sure had a lot to live up to, but in true Lightbringer Games style we have a fine example of an excellent sequel here. From the outset of the game, it is obvious that the graphics have improved just from the opening cut-scene which involves the penguin getting up and at it again after reading about his apparent "fail" in the previous game. The main menu also speaks volumes of the series' progress in that you now have a story mode, classic mode, and arcade mode to entertain yourself with.
Story mode involves the usual launch procedure that we have come to know and love, only with a lot more enhancements compared to the original. You must now aim to destroy various obstacles, payloads increase your damage, and you can earn cash by scoring in various areas such as distance, altitude, duration, destruction, and speed. You even have challenges to meet which will earn you extra cash with which you can afford many of the upgrades the game has to offer. Classic and arcade modes are to be unlocked and offer slightly different takes on the same idea, only with less story and more straight-up flying action and goals-based fun that can be enjoyed without having to worry about a storyline.
The meat of the game is of course the fact you get to upgrade your penguin's various tools to make him fly much further next time. You can now purchase various sleighs, gliders, boosts, payloads, and also fuel for any fuel-consuming equipment you may have on you (namely the boost). You can also increase the length and height of your ramp of course, and all in exchange for increasing quantities of cash. The controls are still the same, with the left/right arrows balancing you mid-air, the space bar allowing you to use your boost, and the mouse controlling all of the menus in the game. You can even customise the controls in the options menu; this is how far the game has come since the original. You can Play Learn to Fly 2 here and see how far you can fly with your flightless bird with the aid of the vast array of upgrades available.
Learn to Fly 3
This is the title that will make the Learn to Fly series a trilogy, and it has finally gotten the go-ahead after a very long time and a good run on the funding website Kickstarter, the funds from which will make the game's production possible. So what can we expect from this third, possibly final, and long-awaited instalment of the Learn to Fly series?
Production value is high on the agenda if the Learn to Fly 3 trailer is anything to go by. This trailer depicts an epic rendition of scenes that include the penguin getting revenge and stirring things up after receiving a hurtful email, though much of this is likely to simply be tongue-in-cheek to symbolise the level of anticipation felt for the game. Still, we can definitely expect to travel to space this time around since this will be the central aim of the gameplay. More upgrades of better quality and increasing complexity are also a certainty, but beyond that it is pure speculation. We could do with a few more environments to train in, more selection in the different upgrades (more rockets, more payloads etc.), and a wider variety of scenery. Hopefully, some of the drama in the trailer will actually be incorporated into the storyline as well, which would make this game the best Learn to Fly yet.