The gift of flight, it’s something that man has wanted for many a year and the closest we’ve come to is helicopters and aeroplanes. Now, there are jetpacks, hovercrafts and things, but these are rarely very good and in the case of jetpacks are nearly exclusively restricted to the world of make-believe. This is where Pilotwings comes into its own; it is essentially all about flying around the world in various contraptions.
The Pilotwings franchise launched on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, back in 1992, and was a critical hit. Most flight simulators are very structured and require hours of playing and even longer reading the instruction manual before the game can even take off. Pilotwings took away the hours of investment required to play a flying game and turned it into a fun and silly experience. With little people donning jetpacks, mini-aircraft and hanggliders to collect balloons, take pictures and essentially complete small, random tasks that keep you going back for more.
With Pilotwings Resort, for the 3DS, Nintendo have taken a leaf from the old book of fun and sewn it onto the new tapestry of “accessibility” that they’ve been touting for the past few years. Pilotwings Resort, at its core, is the same as its predecessors; it’s a case of characters being given different flying abilities and having to complete a set of predefined tasks. However, in Pilotwings 64, these tasks are slightly more varied and as they were set in various destinations, the repetition of taking a photograph of a pipe, or flying through all of the circles seemed different and interesting. With Pilotwings Resort, the player is stuck on WuHu Island in every single scenario, which automatically detracts some of the enjoyment from the title, as it all looks the same. Although the individual characters, which are made to look like the gamer and the elements of Miis and the Wii Fit, feel that Pilotwings Resort garners keeps it open to the newer Nintendo gamers.
The limitations stretch further than just with the environments, the actual missions are very similar. Naturally, any flight simulation game is going to suffer from this and even previous iterations of Pilotwings have had this problem, but it’s literally a case of flying through rings, balloons and taking one or two photographs whilst flying through a balloon. As the game progresses, this trend of floating through balloons at various paces stays the same, it’s just the speed at which you need to do it at changes.
Yet, even with the disappointing lack of environments, the missions do manage to capture your attention. With the three star rating system, it’s very easy to get caught up in playing the same level over and over until 3 stars have been achieved. The “Free” play mode is also very addictive and you have to get all of the balloons or locations listed in a variety of craft in about 2 minutes. It is lacking the Birdman suit from Pilotwings 64, but then again, it was always a questionable selection for a flight simulation game.
Where Pilotwings Resort really shines is in its presentation. Whilst from a gaming point of view, one level is a bit poor, the 3D elements of WuHu Island are nothing short of brilliant. The 3D, at all levels, is deep, colourful and never blurry. Which is key, as it’s so easy for a game to be ruined by dodgy visuals and with the advent of 3D, this elephant in the room is going to cause more problems in the near future. Luckily, Nintendo managed to avoid this and the colours, presentation and level design is great. Even the ocean and lava look great. The design is a cartoony, brightly coloured one. Whilst this could turn some people away from the game, at no point in the franchise’s history have the graphics been serious.
The sound is also very good, with the classic screams from older games and a nice, soothing soundtrack Pilotwings Resort isn’t a title you’d play on mute if you can avoid it. Even the gushing of the wind as you accelerate into a nosedive sounds great.
Pilotwings Resort is far from a poor game even with all of the repetitive elements, it’s still a very enjoyable title that will keep your attention for hours. With the star system and free fly mode, there’s more than enough to keep a Pilotwings fan happy for lengthy sessions at a time and the 3D is amazing as well.