Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Despite being the third in the series, Pilotwings Resort is my first true experience with the franchise. After hearing a lot of praise for the series and seeing the quirky style bestowed upon Pilotwings 64, nothing could have really prepared me for what initially comes across as a sequel to the flying modes of Wii Sports Resort.
Utilising an environment most of us already have come to know with characters only as crazy as the Miis you’ve created on your 3DS started me off on the wrong foot. But that was only the start of it; the free-flight mode has an incredibly small time limit attached to it and the mission mode—and every single press release thus far—presents only three modes of transport: a plane, a jetpack and a glider. To make matters worse, the first bunch of missions are the most inanely boring missions one could feature in a game. There’s one thing about this version of Pilotwings that you need to know from the outset; initially at least, it sets out to underwhelm in every way possible.
But that’s part of what makes Pilotwings Resort the special title it is. The amount of unlockable extras, while it never seems like much at the time, slowly starts to add a lot of extra depth to the experience. Every 20 white balloons you pop in free flight mode (of which there are 180 scattered around the island) gives you an extra 30 seconds of flight time. So, suddenly, you have incentive to collect them all, and since only 60 show up depending on which vehicle you’re using, it also gives you incentive to try out the other flying machines.
That’s not all, though; the mission mode is broken into five groups (ranging from Novice through to Platinum), and each group has three missions for the three main vehicle types. Earn enough stars in one group and you’ll unlock the next. It’s a fairly straightforward system, and the missions start out ridiculously easy so you’ll no doubt start seeing the little unlockable extras soon enough. Needless to say, the three vehicles seen in the bulk of the game's media coverage aren’t the only ones available, daytime isn’t the only time you’ll fly around Wuhu Island, and balloons won’t be the only thing you’ll spend many hours collecting in free flight mode.
As you progress through the mission mode, you’ll find that not only do the missions require a lot more patience and skill, but they add little quirky tasks to ensure you’re not just repeating the same menial tasks over and over again. You might need to just land your glider safely in the first bunch of missions, but eventually you’ll be snapping photos of landmarks, hitting pockets of air to get as high as possible or picking up enough speed to bust through speed gates. There’s a lot to do here for a game that starts off promising so little.
It’s a bit harder to review 3DS games when it comes to graphics. Don’t get me wrong the game isn’t ugly, but it’s also nothing special, without the 3D effect turned on at least. It looks exactly like the quality of graphics you’d find in Wii Sports Resort, and while many may laugh off this rather simplistic style, the game simply pops when you flip the 3D on. Distances suddenly become easier to judge, and the sense of speed in certain vehicles is definitely increased. But sadly, the brightness of the world and all the intense colours sprinkled around Wuhu Island mean that the 3D shadowing some titles can get is a little more obvious. The sweet spot for this 3DS title is a bit smaller than any of the other titles I’ve played, and it usually requires the 3D slider to be permanently at the half way mark. While this title did cause me the most discomfort as far as eye strain goes, once you’ve spent a while with it (or if you’ve already broken your eyes in to the way the 3DS works) then you’ll have no problem sitting down with this title for any length of time.
In the end, you’re here to find out if you should buy this game or not. And while I definitely don’t think it’s a game everyone will enjoy, I’m fairly certain fans of the previous installations will love it, despite severely underwhelming during the first hour of gameplay. Those new to the series will definitely find something attractive once things start opening up. It’s incredibly easy to pick up and play, with most missions and free-flight mode only taking a few minutes. And with so much to collect and unlock, I can see this taking up a good 10 hours of your time. It won’t grab you hard to enough to squeeze that 10 hours out of you in a few days or even a week; instead it’ll be that game you keep going back to, either to perfect a certain mission, find that last balloon or just to show off the 3D capabilities to friends and family.
Lasting Appeal: 9