Nintendo has a history of developing memorable, expertly crafted games to launch with their platforms, from “Super Mario Bros.” for the original NES to “Super Mario 64” for the N64. “Pilotwings: Resort,” one of Nintendo’s main launch titles for the 3DS, is sadly neither memorable nor expertly crafted. There’s nothing inherently flawed in the gameplay, but everything about the execution just feels half-hearted.

Pilotwings: Resort

MonsterGames
Nintendo 3DS

“Pilotwings: Resort” is a flying game all about maneuvering aircraft successfully and quickly through obstacle courses around and above a tropical island. The game is divided into a number of small-time trial missions, putting you in either a small plane, a jetpack or a hang glider. All these missions usually require flying through a number of floating rings in the sky and then landing the aircraft as accurately as possible, either on a runway for the plane or a giant horizontal target pad for the jetpack and hang glider.

Like most Nintendo titles, “Pilotwings: Resort” is a family-oriented game, so the gameplay is far from a hardcore flight simulation. The controls are responsive and accessible, letting the player pull off moves and turns that would take months of practice if they were based in any form of realism. All three vehicles are enjoyable to control, with the hang glider being the most novel since it’s not seen often in other games.

The game is structured rather standardly into five class tiers with nine missions each. Each mission is very brief, usually taking no longer than four minutes to complete. As there are only 50 or so missions, the game itself doesn’t hold much longevity either. Completing each mission will award players a star rating from one to three that’s based on performance — factoring in the amount of rings entered, targets hit, time taken, accuracy of landing, etc. Getting three stars on every mission in a class will unlock the next one and the same process recurs for each class. It’s a really plain, uninspired structure, without any room for variability. Just do everything well, rinse and repeat.

Naturally the difficulty ramps up as the game goes on, but it’s the nature of the difficulty that’s disappointing. Each mission is completely linear, so it boils down to trial and error to get the perfect run — should of taken this turn better, oh didn’t hit those targets well enough, start over. There’s no critical thinking involved to accomplish anything — it’s all simply a matter of execution, which ultimately isn’t that rewarding. With fun flight mechanics and a full island to work with, the developers could have made some really intricate, complex course designs that could challenge players’ ability to get from point A to point B. Instead, the path from point A to point B is clearly laid out and it’s only a matter of not screwing up along the way. It feels like a missed opportunity in terms of game design.

There are other minor issues that make “Pilotwings: Resort” underwhelming. The music is a low point, as there are literally only three tracks that play for the majority of the game. The tracks are pleasant and jaunty, but it’s impossible for the music not to get repetitive and annoying after ten missions or so. Also, the 3-D functionality is nifty but doesn’t add anything to the experience. There’s also a free roam mode where you can fly around the island at your leisure, but without any real objectives it gets boring quickly. “Pilotwings: Resort” plays fine, but everything about it just feels middling. It’s like eating a Twinkie — it’s short and sweet, but afterward you know you could have made a better decision.

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