Nintendo didn’t use Mario or Zelda to launch the Nintendo 3DS, instead they used Pilotwings Resort as their big title. A classic series from the SNES and N64 finally brought back for a modern-day makeover. Remembered for crazy flying contraptions, unique characters and the surprising secrets over varied levels, Resort goes and kills most of this opting for a three vehicle type game with mii’s, few secrets and all on one tropical island seen on Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit. Oh. Thankfully however, Pilotwings Resort is a rather good game which perfectly shows of how 3D can make a difference.
Split over two modes, Mission and Free Flight, you pick one of three vehicle types, plane, rocket belt and Glider, and maneuver them through a series of missions or just to enjoy the sun soaked island. The three vehicles each control completely different to each other and they have some faster paced super versions to unlock over the course of the game which are great fun. The visuals while slightly clean and basic on the wii, come into their own on the small screen offering a beautiful resort to explore and the music compliments the action well, peaceful or upbeat to fit the vehicle in action. 3D is the biggest draw as it makes the world stretch out into the distance and feel like a place you can dive into and fall through the sky. Once you’ve experienced rocketing into a volcano at breakneck speeds you won’t be going back to the flat 2D. It’s like having the world sapped away and turned into a camcorder edition of the holiday when you go 2D, the 3D really is that impressive, though night levels can cause a bit of ghosting to occur (when the image looks to be making a ghostly twin).
The three vehicles really do offer different experiences and they are all a blast to fly. The plane is the simplest as you just need to worry about breaking at sharp turns and boosting at key moments though landing is a complete bitch. After successfully shooting targets or racing through hoops, landing tends to be what ruins achieving that perfect score for Mission Mode. You dive down onto a landing strip and hope you get the speed and angle right so you glide across the water and land in the right place. I struggled to accomplish this on the first landing mission, so I gave up and just settled for an okay ending to the rest of the missions. Gliding through the sky is a real thrill, even more-so when you unlock the jet.
Next is the Rocket Belt, basically a jetpack. You tilt the engines to control which way you want to go and adjust speed to carefully land on fuel pads. This vehicle is a little trickier than the plane initially, but once you get used to slowing down for certain moments it becomes the easiest of the lot thanks to easy landing. I think after completing the game rocket belt shot up to being my favourite thanks to the level of control you can get and the jaw dropping views you witness after souring to the highest point and glancing down. There is also an incredible mission which sees you switching the pack for a squirrel suit and tasks you wish skydiving down the island. Goosebumps bumped up, shame you only see it once. Big shame.
The final vehicle is the one I like the least. The glider provides relaxing missions as you drift through the sky to peaceful and very hummable music. You use big wind to gain height and have to be careful on keeping your speed up so you don’t plummet into the sea. While I enjoyed playing these missions, the glider proves the trickiest challenge as I found it frustrating to take the more taxing angles for keeping from dropping like a fly. Some of the missions are truly exhilarating though as the glider reaches speeds you thought impossible. Many times I gained a sense of vertigo as it plunged through the red speed targets. You can take photos in this mode too which provides some fun in free roam, though it would have been nice if all vehicles had this option as the glider can’t quite reach the heights of the other two machines.
The game is fun to play no doubt about it, but it doesn’t offer enough variety. One island we’ve explored via the skies before thanks to Wii Sports Resort is a bit cheap no matter how lovely the island is, and the missions usually tend to be following targets to the goal. Sometimes you get a bit of variety, such as the super vehicle or the squirrel suit mission, but these crop up only once or twice which is a huge missed opportunity. Pilotwings is about discovering bird suits, shooting people out of cannons and fighting a large mustached robot. Resort is about flying through rings for ten hours with the occasional surprise which shows the team can do it if they try. The standard flying through rings gameplay is excellent though and many hours will be spent trying to get that perfect score, the quality of the controls and perfect mission length times will possess you into doing so. Free Roam is also a relaxing and enjoyable mode creating some freedom to the strict missions . Some people gripe over the five-minute time limit, but that is plenty of time and keeps the item collecting focused. It might not have the varied content, but it does have the tight playability associated with the series.
Comparing it to the other Pilotwings titles this doesn’t manage to deliver on variety and magic though the gameplay is perhaps the best yet. You soon forget that the game is just a one week vacation rather than the more epic fortnight stay and the beauty of the 3D island draws you in. Hurtling into volcanoes and gliding under ruins makes it a holiday to remember. Wish you were here.