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Pilotwings Resort (3DS) artwork

Pilotwings Resort (3DS) review

"There are more than 40 missions, the game’s packaging cheerfully notes, but those missions typically can be completed within 2 or 3 minutes each. A higher score and a better star rating are your only reason to return to a mission once you satisfy its conditions, and once you unlock the next tier of missions, you might not wish to revisit the early challenges at all."

When I was a kid, I dreamt that I could fly. I made the mistake of writing about the dream in my notebook that my mom had purchased me so that I could keep a journal. Then my friend found the notebook, read the entry and made fun of me because there was nothing better to do, he was bored and that’s what guys do when they stumble across something so sissified. I stopped writing about my dreams after that, but I didn’t stop dreaming about owning the skies.

Pilotwings Resort is the sort of game that I would have adored when I was ten years old, dreaming about flying and writing in my dream journal. Now that I’m over thirty and life has left me grounded, however, my affection for the third installment in Nintendo’s franchise is muted. Unless you’re obsessed with flying games or happier to forgive flaws than I am, I’m guessing that your reaction to the 3DS launch title will be similar.

The setup in Pilotwings Resort is simple: you fly around an island in one of three aerial vehicle types (with each featuring two configurations that differ only just barely). Whether you’re shooting targets, snapping pictures or landing on floating metal pads, the general rule is always the same: don’t crash and burn. That’s true in both the “Mission Flight” and the “Free Flight” modes. The primary difference between those two main modes is that in the first one you’ll be presented with varying objectives, while the second one provides you with a set amount of time in which to collect items, fly through rings, perform stunts or whatever else suits you.

Pilotwings Resort is not a substantial experience, no matter which mode you choose. The setting is Wahu Island, a tranquil paradise that some remarked could almost work as its own game when it made its debut in Wii Sports Resort for Wii. Apparently, Nintendo’s developers were listening. The recycled (and for all I know, expanded) setting definitely works here, since it features an impressive volcano, a seaside town, a network of roads and even a suspension bridge and lighthouse. Such an environment is ideal for flying and hang gliding. However, you can quite easily fly across the entire island in a minute or so. That fact prevents the game from feeling as expansive as it otherwise could have.

The number of missions available is similarly disappointing. There are more than 40 missions, the game’s packaging cheerfully notes, but those missions typically can be completed within 2 or 3 minutes each. A higher score and a better star rating are your only reason to return to a mission once you satisfy its conditions, and once you unlock the next tier of missions, you might not wish to revisit the early challenges at all.

Three or four hours of play should provide enough time to clear all of the missions. Then you’ll be left with only the aforementioned Free Flight mode to amuse you. In that mode, you participate in an airborne scavenger hunt. There are floating balloons all over the place and collecting them can increase the time that you are allotted during each run. You also can swoop through floating rings and (when necessary) perform special tricks to satisfy certain requirements. Your only rewards are three-dimensional models and alternate light settings--day, evening and night--for the same island that you’re already exploring, so mostly the Free Flight mode is just a relaxing way to enjoy the game’s three-dimensional environment.

Since Pilotwings Resort is a launch title for the 3DS, it needed to turn the third dimension into a compelling addition to the classic Pilotwings gameplay. Unfortunately, it’s hard to call the game a complete success in that regard. While it’s true that you can crank up the system’s 3D slider and really enjoy a sense of perspective as you swoop and soar around the island, the third dimension doesn’t feel especially relevant. Worse, your concentration could wind up being broken at key moments if you tilt the system too far to one side or the other and suddenly find yourself staring at a blurred screen until you remember to tilt it back. Lowering or eliminating the 3D effect alleviates that problem, obviously, but what’s the point of playing a 3D game without the 3D?

When the 3D is working and you’re not thinking about how you have to hold the handheld to maintain that effect, though, Pilotwings Resort is something special. The thrill of riding a hang glider over the island, catching an updraft and just barely soaring over a rock outcropping before diving down to glide through a tunnel and break out over the top of a stand of trees is magical. Riding a rocket pack along a series of airborne platforms and landing precisely at the center of each one before blasting off toward a new destination while boosting furiously to avoid hitting floating mines is similarly great. And flying in a plane, turning it upside-down and gliding through a floating ring before performing a barrel roll and flying over the top of an inactive volcano is an experience worth dreaming about.

Pilotwings Resort certainly could have benefited from a more robust lineup of missions and from a variety of locations in which to fly. A more significant number of vehicles (and perhaps customization options) would also have been appreciated. What gamers get for their $40 is still worthwhile, but it falls short of what it could have been. The ten-year-old who dreams of flying will surely love it, but the thirty-year-old who worked all of those hours to pay for it shouldn’t be blamed if he feels just the slightest bit cheated. Maybe someday he can write about the dilemma in his journal.

honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (March 31, 2011)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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CoarseDragon posted April 01, 2011:

That fact presents the game from feeling as expansive as it otherwise could have. I think you wanted to use "prevents" in this sentence.

You summed up the game rather nicely.
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zippdementia posted April 01, 2011:

I've heard the 3DS is murder on the eyes. Truth?
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honestgamer posted April 01, 2011:

Not truth for me. I played for a few hours and my eyes were no worse off than normal. They suggest taking a break every half-hour or so, which I often do anyway, but really it's no worse than playing PSP or DS for long stretches. The problem is that everyone's eyes are different and not everyone is going to be clever enough to know where to set the 3D sensitivity. Figure all of that out--which doesn't take long--and it's great... at least so far. I've only put a lot of time into a total of two games so far: Pilotwings Resort (obviously) and Super Street Fighter IV (which doesn't feel like it should really be possible or as excellent as it is on a Nintendo handheld).

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