Archive for July 1, 2011

Pilotwings Resort

Nintendo’s Pilotwings franchise has been sorely missed on the company’s platforms, having last appeared on launch day for the N64. Now the mission-based flight simulator finally makes its return, as a strange hybrid of its former self crossed with one of the games on Wii Sports Resort.

The appeal of the 3D technology is really made obvious here. The gorgeous landscape of Wuhu island stretches out to the (equally beautiful) horizon. The volcano towers above the landscape. The staggered islands are miles from the shoreline. Having the depth makes a world of difference to the game, taking two separate ideas and merging them in an incredible new in-your-face way.

The game is divided into two main sections: Missions and Free Flight. The latter is fairly self-explanatory, consisting of the entire ‘Plane’ game from Wii Sports Resort and adding in extra unlockable vehicles. It’s an amazing demonstration of the 3DS’s capabilities, although the tight time limit often leaves you unable to really explore to your heart’s content. The Missions see you tackling several objective-based flight challenges in three vehicles – the plane, rocket belt and glider.

Easiest of the three is the plane, which has excellent handling and allows you to rattle along at a fair pace, while the glider is probably the hardest, asking you to fly through thermal updrafts at the right angle and stop when needed. The rocket belt seizes the middle ground, managing to be both enjoyable and yet fiddly. There are a host of different missions to complete, ranging from the tutorial missions – land the plane – to the seriously difficult – glide in the air for three minutes before landing immediately.

Adding to the replayability is the three star scoring system. Each set of missions, rated in glass from bronze to diamond, requires a certain amount of completion stars before the next one will unlock, although this usually means earning two of the three stars. Achieving a perfect score simply ups the ante as more variables are introduced and the game is made harder for you. The game seems to delight in taunting you, demanding that you master each vehicle and strive for perfection in all your scores.

Everything counts for your score. There are marker balloons, score capsules and speed panels that require a suicidal burst of energy to crack. The slightest grazing of scenery will see you docked two points, while completing the mission quickly with the perfect landing can mean the difference between passing and failing.

There is one quite massive downside to Pilotwings Resort, and that’s its longevity. While it initially seems like there’s a heck of a lot to do – unlockables, missions, multiple rankings, etc – it won’t take players long to realise that all of these are over far too quickly. At most, there’s a weekend’s play here, and that’s if you go out of your way to see and do everything, which is enormously disappointing for a first-party title.

Admittedly Pilotwings Resort has not been made with lengthy gaming sessions in mind. This, like the Wii Sports titles before it, is the game that you are supposed to show off to your friends and get them hooked on the hardware. From that perspective, the game is a total success. The unforgettable sight of the island as you fly over, under and around it will probably come to define the potential of the 3DS. If only the game had a bit more depth to it and felt like less of a technical demo, this would be a must buy. Like this, it’s destined to be the game you pick up after the first one wears thin.

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