You cannot possibly claim to be knowledgeable about the launch game genre if you haven't got some kind of experience with the specific, penguin-themed launch fun of the Learn to Fly (often stylised as Learn 2 Fly) series. A wild success in the launch game genre, the Learn to Fly flash games have achieved widespread popularity and have also been ported to the mobile platform. The long-awaited Learn to Fly 3 is here now however, and it's high time that the game received the recognition it deserves. Though not hosted in an official capacity as of yet, Light Bringer Games' third instalment sees a return of the smile-inducing humour and addictive upgrades system of the previous Learn to Fly games, but this time launching from a dead start.
Launch games are nothing new to the flash world. Among the absolute classics we have games like Knightmare Tower, Burrito Bison, and the much-loved Into Space series. But considered a classic even among the classics, Learn To Fly almost always takes the number one spot for being at the forefront of launch-based flash gaming. Some thought that Learn To Fly 3 would always remain a myth - a fake release of the game was once the subject of an April Fool's Day prank at one stage - but to the absolute credit of the game's developers, Learn to Fly 3 finally became the awesome reality that it was arguably destined to be. So the reputation-obsessed penguin is back for a third stint in the skies - can he make it to the moon this time?
The premise of Learn to Fly 3's gameplay relies quite heavily on that of the previous games. As far as this series goes however, the 'if it isn't broke don't try to fix it' mantra holds true. In this third edition, you play as the same penguin who has been obsessed with proving 'the haters' wrong since day one by achieving the goal of launching himself to the moon. A few humorous cut-scenes and a visit to 'Penguin Nasa' later, you are thrust back into familiar launch-game territory, with a simple goal: to launch and upgrade your way to the moon with the help of an upgrade tree and the occasional handy hint along the way.
At the outset of the game you start with a measly $10 with which you must purchase some basic hardware. Starting with a springboard, you must launch the penguin towards the moon with the goal of earning scraps of cash to invest back into your launch hardware. However, rather than play out like a vertical platformer (like the unique Knightmare Tower, for example), Learn to Fly 3 leans more towards a launch-and-see kind of game, though after the automatic launch you do have control over the movement of the penguin by using either the directional arrows or the WASD keys. There's also a handy interface of instruments that indicate your speed, drag, and altitude as well.
There's only so much fun you can have doing the same thing (i.e. launching a penguin) repeatedly before you need some additional flavour however: this comes in the form of the game's multi-tiered upgrade system. Actually, multi-tiered is a bit of an understatement here since Learn to Fly 3's upgrade tree has more branches than ever before. As you earn more money, you are able to upgrade the four major components of your hardware: your launcher, your body, stages, and boosts.
The launcher is what gets you off the ground and takes many forms according to what you can afford. You can begin with a springboard but will end up earning enough cash to purchase explosives, a powder cannon, or the holy grail of launchers: the nuclear reactor. The same upgrade tree applies to the body of your launch device, which can be anything from an ejector seat (for a bit of extra altitude) to a jetpack. Stages provide further boosts in the form of balloons, fireworks, RPGs and many more; you'v also got the boosts which can provide extra time in the air. With all this in mind, Learn to Fly 3 is the most kitted-out, hardware-heavy iteration of the series yet.
The previous two Learn to Fly games were by no means inferior to this third edition, but it is hard to argue against this one being the most content-heavy yet. It retains the charm and humour of the previous games whilst also adding a significant quantity of content in the form of upgrades, bonus points, and customisation so comprehensive it can't be covered in full detail here.
The only drawback to Learn to Fly 3 is that due to it being a sort of pre-release (sort of the equivalent of Steam's Early Access games), it's got an unfinished feel to it. You have to watch ads after every few launches and the menu interface feels a little unfinished and raw. As far as launch games go however, Learn to Fly 3 is definitely the most content-heavy and enjoyable of the series yet, and this is down to Light Bringer Games' dedication and recognition of what makes the series so great.