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Pilot Academy

This lightweight flight sim evolved from the popular Japanese console series Pilot Ni Narou! (Let's Become A Pilot!) but, although producer Junichi Kutusuzawa still holds the reins, development duties have been assumed by Kuju's Sheffield studio.

The team there is hoping to not just retain the games' accessibility and wide appeal, but to increase them in the transition to PSP.

The controls are necessarily and reassuringly slim; the analogue slider is the stick, while triangle and square control the throttle and the shoulder buttons the rudder (though in the default assisted flight mode, you'll barely need to use either of these).

Nevertheless, with no Ace Combat-style correction, no digital option and very fine control sensitivity - all understandable in what is still a pure flight title - it casts an unforgiving spotlight on PSP's famously twitchy slider, and may be initially off-putting to many.

Not so the classy, minimalist front end (so very PSP), nor, thankfully, the structure and mission design, which seem much less dry and exacting than is usual in a flight sim.

Missions, roughly 10 minutes in length, divide into civilian and military paths: the former shows plenty of imagination in its conception, with scenarios such as crop-dusting or flying a 747 through tornadoes while maintaining passenger comfort.

Meanwhile, challenges offer a minute-long burst of surreal, score-attack play: barnstorming, corkscrewing through hoops, playing darts with fighter jets. The package is rounded out with multiplayer (team-based dogfights, and a sort of aerial game of tag) and the eminently sensible inclusion of an unrestricted Free Flight mode.

There's much to suggest that Pilot Academy will be one of the most sensitive adaptations of flight simulation this side of PilotWings, but it begs the question: did they pick the right console?

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