Carrying out acts of daring missions through the bright sunny skies is an attractively heroic concept, played out to a glorious fanfare reminiscent of Studio Ghibli’s superb flying pig movie Porco Rosso. Alas, in reality it has all the flying finesse of holding a plastic spoon full of baby food and faking plane noises to pilot it into a baby’s mouth.
The Wii remote handles like a miniplane in your hand; you dip the it, the plane dips instantaneously; you twist it, the plane twists instantaneously. Simple? Yes. Completely lacking any sense of aeronautical physics? You betcha. Compared to Pilotwings 64, where individual control-tweaking wouldn’t manifest as visible on-screen movements until your vehicle had physically adjusted itself within the air flow, this feels paper-thin.
The challenge in most flight-based games is the unfriendliness of controls. By making the controls such a non-chore, Wing Island
’s already overly-simplistic missions - fetch a crate, some wood - are made even more redundant.
Sometimes you’ll find yourself coasting over endless seas to deliver a box, while the soundtrack explodes in orchestral magnificence. The only threat of ocean/ground plummet-age is that you may doze off mid-flight and let the remote slip from your hand - but even then, as long as it hits the floor on its back the plane will carry on going in a perfect straight line.
To make things more exciting - sorry - to make things exciting, Hudson added four buddies who move in perfect unison with the player-controlled plane. Flying like a bunch of, well, headless chickens, they stick by your side through thick and thin, no matter what the dangerous implications - be it drowning, cliff face/plane interplay or mowing beak-first into a lighthouse. If that isn’t smart gameplay, then we don’t know what is.