What is it about the nostalgia of video games that makes us all a quiver? Could it be their brash simplicity or their plain design? It might be their focus and drive or their attempts to prove that a concept could work. Whatever it is, it is all alive and well within the launch of the Nintendo 3DS. A launch that is full of titles that are simple games, made to deliver a solid and brand new concept. Games made to display the very best of the console and try and convince any of the floating un-deciders that it’s the unit for them. So all hail the bankable assets! Ah yes, those things that on the drawing board surely could never appear to fail or disappoint. I mean everybody loves Rayman! Everyone has wanted to pilot a submarine and absolutely everyone has dreamed of dressing up a Corgi in hats and jewellery. It is what the public wants!
Though with tongue firmly replaced to centre, there is one thing that did spark my interest when the launch titles were announced. Pilotwings was always one of those quirky titles that just got quirkier as it moved from the NES over to the N64 back in 1996. American flags emblazoned onto to Rocket Packs, pedal copters hovering over topographical charms and characters full of personality. Surely then from all that quirk and mirth, great things could be expected from the next prodigy in line to take on the franchise. Pilotwings Resort is set above a wonderfully sculpted island, and sure seems like a sure fine asset to be launching with a new system. It is shame then that for the most part developer Monster Games have taken out a lot of the original title’s verve and replaced it with a reluctance to bring anything more or unique to the skies.
There are a few things to get used to when you first plonk in Pilotwings Resort. This time the specially designed environments and characters have been thrown away and instead you’re recycling many assets that either you’ve created or Nintendo have created before. Pilotwings Resort takes you to the skies above Wuhu Island and even though it is not a location that is in any way unique to many players, the familiarity of the island makes for quite a comforting scene to fly around with the greatest of ease. Anyone who has played Wii Fit or Wii Sports Resort will already be well versed in large parts of the island. For those then it will be a pleasure to soar around this location and see if from a different point of view. This, I imagine, would be even more of pleasure for those seeing it for the first time. Letting Wuhu speak for itself is probably the greatest risk that Monster Games has taken for this title. As a location Wuhu could have translated as laziness from the developers but instead it comes across as probably the most personable part of the title. Wuhu manages to breathe and bustle with life. Its hills and landmarks work their appeal, always willing you to come back and explore more.
Everything else though in Pilotwings Resort is on the face of it quite the disappointment. Instead of the characters that before bristled with at least the tiniest bit of personality, this time it is your Mii that takes charge of the Plane, Handglider or Jet Pack. Already impersonal at the best of times the Mii in Pilotwings Resort seems to be nothing more than a tourist on a package holiday or stag weekend that they don’t want to be on. I felt more character went into my created signature for my Pilotwings Resort membership than it ever did when I created my Mii, so putting that into a title that thrives on spirit is misguided. Sure, they look harmless enough but I couldn’t help feel like I was being treated like a visitor to the island rather than a trained pilot wanting to test out their skills.
The tests you’ll get are all pretty standard fare as well. Flying through rings, landing smoothly, taking pictures of landmarks and popping balloons are all on the go at Wuhu. Most of these make more than one appearance as well, which means you’ll be repeating a majority of the same tasks just at higher levels of skill. Of course there is not much else you can do with a flight sim like this and the challenges are deceptively devilish at times. The satisfaction you get from perfecting one set of tasks is no more diluted from the beginning of the game to the end, and that is part of Pilotwings Resort’s unique charm.
There is good reason as well to complete all these challenges, because without them you won’t really be up to much else whilst playing the title. Other than performing these challenges you can also take a Free Flight around the island, which is a chance to collect hidden objects and just explore. However, this Free Flight is free only in name and your time spent in the air without rings to go through or without balloons to pop is severely limited. From the outset you’ll have less than two minutes of time to spend as you wish in your wings of choice, and that is hardly the Free Flight you imagine. So the challenges are a must, because progression in them means you’ll have more time made available for you in Free Flight. Though for me it felt like just being granted more time in the prison’s exercise yard.
I cannot think why such a thing as Free Flight needs to be so pinned back the way it is in Pilotwings Resort. Add to this that there is no day cycle to Wuhu Island and you have to choose the time of day you fly at, be it Day, Night or Dusk, therefore further limiting the experience. I wanted the freedom to fly around until the sun began to set, not to have it all put on a plate and then finish a few minutes later. There is something about Pilotwings Resort that I really wanted to enjoy, but it felt like a clipped experience, like it was all part of something that wanted to be much bigger.
The many things that Pilotwings Resort doesn’t live up there are also many things that it delivers in droves. It is gorgeous, enthusiastic and the 3D effect works superbly well. Flight mechanics are solid and each one performs as you would presume from a title with a certain amount of credible heritage. New players and fans I guarantee will always find a reason to come back to the title, because as the game develops it will grow on you, especially as you get access to more aerial crafts. However, Pilotwings Resort doesn’t have a mite of the personality that we’ve seen in other titles and even though overall it is an engrossing experience it is also mired by its own potential.
MLG Rating: 6/10
Platform: Nintendo 3DS Release Date: 25/03/2011
Disclosure: The title was reviewed over the course of four days on a 3DS. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.