Lovely puzzley skymindedness wins the day in Jetstream

In real life, planes do not move the way they do in Jetstream. In Jetstream, gone are the arcs and steady ascents, the slow, bovine turns and the rattly, thumping intrusions of turbulence. Instead, it’s brisk straight lines and sudden right angle turns. Start here, get to there. Go.

Jetstream’s a 2D puzzle game, in which you navigate little grids of sky to reach your target. The rules are simple and build in clever ways. At first, your only real obstacle are cloud banks that block your progress, and the fact that you can’t cross your own contrail. The challenge comes from the fact that your plane won’t stop moving until it’s run out of squares in the direction it was headed in.

Fairly soon, though, you get compasses that allow you to stop and change direction, and fuel pumps that allow you to cancel out any contrails that have been laid down so far. Next come storm clouds, teleporters, and all that kind of clever jazz.

Throughout all this, Jetstream values elegance above all else: can you find the smartest, simplest path through the next thicket of cloud? Can you make this sleek liner move in a way that’s as pleasing and confident as its classic design suggests? Jetstream is a lovely, breezy, maddening thing, precise and cheery with everything in its place. I played it on PC over the weekend, but its real life lurks on the still-in-development smartphone version, in which its swift straight lines will be able to distract you from any real-world turbulence on bumpy international crossings.

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