PIlotwings returns but seems to have forgotten about 10 hours of playtime.
Pilotwings Resort features around Wuhu Island, the star from Wii Sports Resort, and thus feels instantly familiar, which can be seen as a good or bad depending on how much of your fill you've had with it in the past. Personally I was fine with one more return to the island, but Nintendo needs to start changing the island as it is in danger of becoming stale, as nothing new was added to it for this game. You navigate the island in 3 different types of aircraft (with 2 variations in each class) the plane, which is by far the easiest to control with the circle pad doing a fantastic job of tracking subtle movements, the jetpack is a little trickier to control with landings in particular proving difficult to master, and finally the glider that controls flawlessly but needs to be elevated by flying through air currants. All 3 classes have their strengths and weaknesses, but all control fluidly and pose a different challenge.
There are 2 modes on offer, mission mode and free flight mode. Mission mode gives you different challenges with each aircraft ranging from novice through to platinum difficulty. Staples from the past games are present here flying through rings, shooting balloons and making difficult landings all feature, alongside more weird tasks like rounding up lost UFO's. The difficulty scales well and although it won't take you long to pass every mission; going for the elusive 3 stars proves to be a much harder challenge. Free flight mode allows you to fly around the island and collect locations, pop balloons and fly through trick rings. It is an enjoyable distraction from the main game and can become a bit of time sink, as your total collection percentage slowly staggers up. For some strange reason though Nintendo decided to impose a time limit on free flight mode, which feels completely arbitrary as most players are going to jump straight back into the mode again. I understand that it adds an element of challenge to the mode, but I would rather fly around the island to my hearts content without worrying if I'm going to run out of time.
Whilst both mission mode and free flight mode are both thoroughly enjoyable experiences they also present Pilotwings Resort's biggest problem, namely that it is far too short. To see everything that the game has to offer is going to take a paltry 5 hours of play, and little more than 10 hours to get 100%. This is not enough content for a game asking you to pay £35 for it, coupled with the fact that past games in the series gave you more than one island to explore makes this feel like quite a lazy effort from Nintendo, maybe rushed out for the launch of the console.
It's lucky then that the one island they did feature looks stunning, every bit as good looking as it did on Wii Sports Resort and a great indication of what is to come from the 3DS. This spectacle of colour is heightened by the 3D effect, I will admit to been sceptical of how much 3D would effect gameplay (after all there are only so many times things can pop out of the screen before you get bored), but it is the depth that the 3D offers that is really staggering. As you fly up high you can see the whole island out in front of you, that coupled with the new found depth granted makes it one of the most immersive gaming experiences I have experienced in a long time. The 3D also helps in judging corners and landings that can make or break those all-important 3 star ratings.
Ultimately Pilotwings is an enjoyable experience, but an all too fleeting one. Flying around Wuhu island is as charming as it was in Wii Sports Resort and the missions are varied enough to be replayed a good number of times, but a lack of online leaderboards makes replay value limited. Since the 3DS launch is not exactly packed with AAA titles, I can happily recommend Pilotwings as a great showcase of what the 3DS is capable of as well as an enjoyable game in its own right. Be warned though that this is an expensive, short-haul flight but fortunately enjoyed from first class.
+ All aircraft control flawlessly + Mission mode is suitably challenging + Free flight mode is a relaxing diversion + 3D adds real depth to an already stunning game
- Far, far too short - Too few mode types - No replay value