Microsoft has made a trip to Hawaii kind of dull. The Hawaiian Adventure Pack for Microsoft Flight should offer up all of the excitement of flying over some of the most scenic landscapes in the Pacific, but playing the add-on feels more like a job than an aerial vacation. This workmanlike 1,600-point ($20) downloadable content package just adds more of the same to the initial game available online as a free download. What's on offer here increases the number of jobs, challenges, and missions available in the freebie, and adds the terrain and scenery of the entire Hawaiian Island chain, but there are few other additions. This is one of those expansions that make the original game bigger and broader, not deeper, so you can't help but be a little disappointed even as you ooh and ahh at the sight of Diamond Head looming out of the morning mist.
One of the biggest flaws with the Hawaiian Adventure Pack is that you really need to combine it with another DLC purchase right off the hop. Go into it without first buying the 1,200-point ($15) Maule M-7 260C cargo/light passenger plane, and most of the jobs available in airports are impossible to complete. This annoying straight-up gouge essentially pumps the price of this expansion to a pretty sizable 2,800 points ($35). A reasonable cargo plane should be part of the expansion for the initial cash outlay, but instead you get the dinky Van's RV-6A. While this cool little number is a lot of fun to fly because of its speed and maneuverability, the plane is too similar to the Icon A5 featured in the free game. The RV-6A is more of an aerial sports car than the rather staid A5--which is really played up in the very first checkout mission, where your tour guide has you zip under a bridge--but it is too tiny to take on the cargo and passenger runs that make up the majority of the jobs posted on airport bulletin boards.
Once you get beyond the need to buy another plane, however, the entirety of the Hawaiian Islands unfolds before you. Where the original free-to-play MS Flight restricted your aerial activities to the main island of Hawaii, now you can wing over to Maui, Oahu, Molokai, and a few other places that have too many vowels in their names. Scenery has been dramatically upgraded. Hawaii looked a whole lot like the Midwest from the air in the free game, without a tremendous amount of detail outside of the strip-mall-strewn urban centers and a few scenic hotspots like bubbling volcanoes and waterfalls. Now you get the whole enchilada: the Na Pali Coast, Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor including the docked USS Missouri and the USS Arizona memorial, Honolulu Ridge, and more. There is a lot to see.
The one drawback is the stillness of the scenery, which remains lifeless with no other planes in the air unless you're in multiplayer (pretty much pointless unless you want to fly and chat) and no sign of action on the ground or in the water. Still, you could spend hundreds of hours exploring, which can be addictive in its own right. Tons of the scavenger-hunt aerocaches can be found all over the map as well, giving you an added reason to soar around taking in the sights.
Randomly exploring the map offers up the most fun, too. While the Hawaiian Adventure Pack continues with MS Flight's philosophy that this should focus on the freedom of flight (rather than offering a perfect simulation), the types of jobs available in airports here vary little from those offered up in the free game. You can fly longer routes, but you're still doing the same tasks. Cargo runs still involve the same loads of monkeys, bananas, baseballs, and other random items that you hauled around the big island of Hawaii in the freebie. Passenger runs still see you running people for pricey hamburgers and emergency medical treatment. Some added variety would have been much appreciated.
The one plus comes with the scenic tours, because now you get to take a wider range of tourists (who thankfully come complete with new voices and personalities) from all the islands to many of the gorgeous landmarks spread across the entire archipelago. In the free game, you were stuck making endless jaunts to the same volcano, waterfall, and mountain satellite dishes. Here you're off to every cool nook and cranny that all of Hawaii has to offer, from Waikiki Beach to Waimea Canyon.
Missions and challenges have been beefed up to some extent. Missions now include a couple of scenic expeditions where you take photographers to document gorgeous Hawaiian scenery. These are the highlights of the whole expansion pack, because they give you up-close and personal views of world-famous landmarks and toss in tough tasks like having to land on tiny dirt airstrips in the midst of dense forests. It's just a shame that there are only two of these assignments. With that said, these photo jobs aren't all that different from the standard tourist look-sees you can do from the airports. They're longer and more involved (especially the photo-book job, which can take a few hours unless you skip to checkpoints), but you're still just flying to various attractions.
The rest of the missions also offer up some interesting jobs, including rescuing a kayaker for the Coast Guard and flying an astronomer above the clouds on a pitch-black night to view a comet. Unfortunately, you can complete them all in an evening or so of play. Extra challenges include landing tests, this time with the RV-6A and the Maule, along with some aerobatic flying. There isn't anything in the list of challenges that stands out from those in the original game, although the RV-6A landings can be brutally tough because of the need to slow the plane down well in advance of descending and the miniscule nature of the runways.
As you might expect from the first of what will likely be many DLC packages for the new Microsoft Flight franchise, the Hawaiian Adventure Pack plays it safe. There is a good deal of content at a reasonable price, but this expansion adds more of the same types of missions from the original game rather than branching out into new territory. The add-on is recommended if you enjoyed the free original game, however, even if it is on the bland side, because it adds a tremendous amount of new territory, airports, and jobs to take on as you build your piloting qualifications. Being able to explore such a large region makes this a decent expansion, but Hawaiian Adventure doesn't offer enough interesting additions to make it a must-take trip.