Pilotwings Resort: review

 

You have a brand new 3DS, still shiny and full of amusing mini-games, but you still need a real game to play; something with meat on its bones to make your purchasing decision worthwhile. As one of the few Nintendo-published launch titles, Pilotwings Resort has a good chance of catching your eye. Will this uncomplicated flight simulator fill the void all by itself? To be honest, probably not. Nevertheless, it’s still a fine product and a good start for the new handheld.

As the third entry in the series, Pilotwings Resort shifts the action to Wuhu Island (as seen in Wii Fit and Wii Sports Resort), a sprawling landmass of quaint countryside and lofty mountains. You’ll spend your time zipping around the island’s clear skies, and forty-odd challenges split between three vehicle types give you a compelling reason to do so.

The plane is the speediest machine and can boost and barrel roll itself to success. Tight corridors will throw this aircraft for a loop, but nothing tops it when straights are involved. The rocket belt is a manoeuvrable little device; alternating between the strong and weak jets creates a precise control scheme with lots of verticality. Finally there is the hang glider, a relaxing ride that depends on gusts of air and a steady hand to keep it aloft. The vehicles are as unlike one another as they are fun to pilot, and they each sport a souped-up version for use in later missions.

The challenges themselves grow progressively more difficult through bronze, silver, gold, and platinum classes. Simple tasks such as landing your craft and flying through rings will give you a feel for the game as you work your way up to more rigorous activities. Once you’re up to speed, balloons trailing behind cars must be shot out of the sky, set altitudes have to be reached in the alloted time, and pictures of photogenic landmarks must be snapped. Most of the missions boil down to following a path and hitting checkpoints one way or another, but the simplicity actually works to game’s credit. Merely scraping through these missions without utterly failing isn’t very tough; it’s the three-star rating system that will put you to the test.

Oh yeah. And the bottom screen is your map. But, at this point, can't that go without saying?

Pilotwings Resort grades your performance by tallying up accuracy, number of bumps and crashes, leftover fuel, time taken and other assorted elements. All of these factors are clearly lined up at the end of a mission, so it’s easy to see what you aced and what needs improvement. Practice and perseverance will yield big dividends, and a skilful attention to the nuances of your chosen vehicle can turn a pathetic blunder into sheer victory.

If you’re looking for something with bit less structure, a free flight mode lets you hop into the aircraft of your choice and fly wherever you’d like to go. Collectables and points of interest are scattered all over Wuhu Island (most of them vehicle-specific) and a timer will be breathing down your neck, so don’t muck about for too long. Nabbing enough doodads will unlock extended time limits and evening/nighttime settings along with dioramas to view at your pleasure. These so-called dioramas amount to little more than rotating vehicle models that serve no real purpose, which isn’t a very exciting reward. Exploring the island and upping your collectable count does suck up a surprising amount of time and offers a nice break from the usual grind, but it’s sometimes hard to care when you know it won’t lead to much.

Free flight mode does give you a spectacular view of Wuhu Island, however, and that alone makes it worthy addition. Pilotwings Resort is a positively spiffy-looking game that makes excellent use of its bright, rounded visuals. Your created Mii pilots the flying machines over the simple yet charming scenery that takes advantage of the lovely lighting effects. Whether cheery sunlight spills over the island, the warm lights of the village are twinkling in the dark, or a gorgeous sunset is framed against the ocean, you’ll have something pretty to look at as you fly.

With the 3D slider maxed out you’re essentially committing suicide with your eyeballs. When this befuddling filter is applied, focusing on the foreground, floating objects and your aircraft at the same time is strenuous to say the least. Instead, we heartily recommend that you bump the slider up about a quarter of the way to see a subtle 3D effect that adds rather than detracts. This third dimension is in no way necessary to the gameplay, but it’s a neat touch that makes the game look great.

Why is that guy having so much fun? Because he has a rocket belt. That's why.

The sound department is up to snuff as well, providing music both relaxing and jaunty. This sort of game can appear to be headphones-optional at first glance, but to sail a hang glider through the moonlit night without the soothing, uplifting tune that accompanies it would be missing out.

It’s too bad that burning through the mission mode in an hour and a half is all too easy. Going back to earn every star and a few nifty extras is certainly fun, but it doesn’t do much to extend the game’s life. If the dioramas were more interesting there would be added incentive to shoot for 100% in free flight mode, but that is, sadly, not at all the case. Frankly, there’s not much to do.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with Pilotwings Resort. It’s a solid, entertaining game that would have made for a generous and impressive pack-in title. As for standing on its own two feet with a retail price of £40, however, it falls short, failing to justify its scarce content with such a hefty price. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with extensive games like Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadows Wars doesn’t help matters. Pilotwings Resort is no crash landing — in fact, the flight is remarkably smooth — but it runs low on fuel before truly soaring.


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Written by Stephen K

A lover of video games in general, Stephen will happily play just about any sort of game on just about any sort of system, especially if it's a platformer or an RPG. Except sports games. Sports games are boring.

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