The original Pilotwings was released to show off the Super Nintendo’s Mode 7; then the second game came to showcase the Nintendo64’s analogue stick. Since then, the franchise was left in limbo, bypassing the Cube, DS and Wii, until now. Pilotwings Resort sees the series make its long overdue return in the form of a 3DS launch title, used once again to demonstrate the prowess of the new system; but does this resort offer thrills and spills, or just crash and burn?
Pilotwings Resort offers just two modes for the player, Mission Mode and Free Flight. In Mission Mode you, understandably, take part in a series of missions over five classes, ranging from Novice to Platinum, asking you to complete a series of objectives ranging to simply landing a glider onto a platform to shooting targets and flying through rings, to following a stunt plane and copying its tricks. Prior Pilotwings’ missions have always been tough to negotiate and Resort is no exception, while the majority of players should pass through the first couple of classics in no time, latter ones offer much less room for error, and require more precision to earn the base ratings, while the higher ratings will take real dedication to achieve.
Free Flight meanwhile, grants you access to the island to explore at your leisure, at least in theory. In practise you given access to the island and aircraft of your choice for a set amount of time, to increase you limit – to a maximum of five minutes – you’re going to have to locate and pop the 160 balloons that are hidden throughout the map. Locations of interest are also there to find, and later on you’ll unlock three additional types of items to interact with; though two are variations of the main game’s rings. Located these unlocks various dioramas, which seem to be designed more to show off the 3DS’ capabilities than anything else.
The rub is that whether you’re exploring the island, or participating in missions, there really isn’t that much to do in the game. Shooting targets in your plane isn’t much different than shooting balloons in it. And nor is flying through rings in a glider that much different than doing so with a rocket-belt. Variety is not Pilotwings biggest suite, there are only so many times you can fly into the volcano, and fly through rings, before it starts to get a little old.
The three main aircraft – an airplane, glider and the somewhat outlandish rocket-belt – that you’ll be using throughout most of the game handle excellently, with the analogue hub. Planes feel smooth, rocket-belt’s make way for frantic changes of direction and gliders give an almost zen like experience to soaring the skies. In total the controls are pitch perfect for each craft, making it a joy to simply mess around in them, its just a shame that there’s not much to actually do with them.
There’s no online or local multiplayer of any kind, there is also no use of the 3DS’ Street Pass feature whatsoever; you cannot even compare your scores to other profiles on the same game-card. This is a solo game in every sense of the word.
Wuhu Island – the island from Wii Sports Resort – is your centrepiece for all Pilotwing related activities, and it and the surrounding islands are the only location in the game. The island looks decent, if a little lifeless, with stationery cars dotted throughout the landscape. The few things that give life to the place are a whale swimming the nearby seas, a stunt plane, and some wind turbines; everything else on the island appears to be more or less deserted.
The depth of vision afforded by the 3DS stereoscopic display can be a great boon to the experience; helping you judge depth and making the space between you and the roof of the cavern you’re exploring, or the distance of the next ring in line. There are a few issues, it too easy to get double-images if you lose the 3DS’s 3D Sweet-spot by moving the console slightly whilst playing, to the point where you might even want to turn the 3D off in order to not have it as a distraction while you concentrate on the mission of hand.
The lack of variety is the most pressing concern for Pilotwing’s longevity, and while it is possible to aim for those perfect scores, and then even higher, doing so feels more like busywork than an achievement, the novelty of flying will wear thin after so long. The lack of any kind of multiplayer, either locally or online doesn’t help the package in anyway, and while the simple pleasure of flying is still here, there just isn’t enough content to warrant a long-term flight plan.
Review originally published at gamingtilldisconnected.com April 2010.