If you’re particularly good at flight games, you can breeze through most of the games primary challenges within two hours. However, the game encourages you to nail perfect scores in each mission for a final bonus; I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but it’s a rather cool surprise and worth the effort. If securing perfect scores sounds like a huge pain in the ass, know that it’s surprisingly easy to chip away until you get there - it’s certainly not a grueling experience where you’re replaying the same mission for hours trying to shave off one second. If you don’t like harsh grading or the prospect of replaying areas more than a few times, you should probably avoid the game altogether.
Beyond the main game, there’s a Free Flight mode that lets you explore WuHu Island (the same one from Wii Sports Resort) at your leisure. At first this sounds like a throwaway mode, because the entire main game takes place on WuHu Island, so there’s no immediate reason to dick around even more in free flight. Thankfully, Nintendo’s tossed in all manner of collectibles, and finding these myriad objects unlocks several Smash Bros-style statues you can observe in another viewing mode.
The statues of vehicles and various Wuhu landmarks are good for a quick glance (it’s not like they’re new 3D renders of Mario and Link, after all), so the reward for all that searching isn’t necessarily worth the effort. However, the actual quest to find all of those Mii Trophies, White Balloons, Stunt Rings and so on is a lot of fun, and I relished each new discovery towards the end. Scanning the horizon for one last object, seeing it 500 feet below in between two seaside rocks and then pulling up at the last second to avoid a watery grave is a great feeling.
All that said, a few more areas would have been nice, as both the original game and Pilotwings 64 moved you through all kinds of new terrain. WuHu Island, even with its satellite islands, high cliffs and towering volcano, is still the same place day, evening and night.
I’m already a fan of both Pilotwings and flight games in general, so this semi-bare-bones approach really appeals to me. Some may see a game light on content, whereas I see a game that sticks to its guns and gets things done right. It make take just two hours to blow through the main game (again, if you’re really good), but perfecting those scores and finding all the goodies in Free Flight can rack up another 4-5 easily. System seller? Not quite. Fun, simple flight game that handles great and conveys a fantastic sense of speed and height? Absolutely.
Mar 23, 2011