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Critical Reception: Nintendo/Monster Games' Pilotwings Resort

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Monster Games' Nintendo 3DS launch title Pilotwings Resort, which reviews describe as a "low-impact flight simulator to play in short bursts."

Danny Cowan, Blogger

April 6, 2011

6 Min Read

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to the Monster Games-developed Nintendo 3DS launch title Pilotwings Resort, which reviews describe as "a reasonably fun, low-impact flight simulator to play in short bursts." Pilotwings Resort currently earns a score of 70 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Brett Elston at Games Radar scores Pilotwings Resort at 8 out of 10. "Pilotwings has always been a tech demo series, but it's also managed to be an incredibly fun tech demo series," he begins. "The original helped launch the Super NES in 1991, introducing fancy new scaling and rotation effects not possible on earlier systems. This was followed by Pilotwings 64 in 1996, which saw vast new 3D realms the Super NES could only dream of." Like its predecessors, Pilotwings Resort tests players in a variety of flight simulation events. "The tasks start off quite simple, then escalate to minutes-long tests of skill and endurance as you progress through each class," Elston explains. "As you near Platinum you're asked to shoot targets, fly through rings and nail a perfect landing, all within a set time limit. Honestly, that's it -- just you against the clock, competing against yourself for better times and scores on each course. But for a handheld game, that's totally OK." The 3D effect offers little benefit to gameplay, however. "Pilotwings Resort visuals do indeed stretch into the horizon, but the 3D effect doesn't make it any easier to judge distances between your plane and the next floating ring, or your hovering rocket pack and the landing pad up ahead," Elston notes. "System seller? Not quite. Fun, simple flight game that handles great and conveys a fantastic sense of speed and height? Absolutely." Wired's Chris Kohler rates Pilotwings Resort at 7 out of 10. "Pilotwings has always been the game Nintendo suckers you into buying when there's hardly anything else to play on your spanking new machine," he writes. "When the company launched the Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 consoles, the casual flight simulator was one of the few games on shelves. If you wanted to take a break from pouring hours into the new Mario game, you could give your brain some variety by flying around in airplanes, rocket packs or hang gliders." The franchise's premise remains compelling on the Nintendo 3DS. "I found myself fairly addicted to Pilotwings Resort," Kohler notes. "The main game is a series of about 40 small challenges that range from one to three minutes in length. Typically, you'll fly on a course through the game's tropical island, zipping through rings, collecting point tokens, avoiding obstacles and finally pulling off a good landing. "If I screwed anything up, it was easy to whack the 3DS' Start button and retry the level from the beginning, so I fell into that compulsion loop of trying and retrying until I could attain -- well, not perfection, but a result good enough to move forward in the game." "Achieving that state of mastery is Pilotwings Resort's greatest reward," Kohler explains. "The controls are simple; you rarely have to do anything other than adjust your direction with the 3DS' analog pad and press A and B to accelerate and brake. The difficulty is in learning to read the environment and skillfully tap those buttons in the perfect increments so as to slide through the obstacles and not crash into anything." A lack of content means that gamers are not likely to sink much time into Pilotwings Resort, however. "Pilotwings Resort's main drawback is that there's not much to the game," Kohler says. "It doesn't take very long to plow through its challenges. Besides trying for increasingly higher scores, there's little to do once you've finished the limited number of scenarios. Online races or even leaderboards would have added some stickiness, but the game doesn't offer these options. (In particular, adding leaderboards would have required a trivial amount of work.)" "If Nintendo is serious about proving that its polished portable releases smoke competitors' cut-rate downloadable titles," Kohler writes, "the company should concentrate on producing games that last longer than a few hours." Brad Shoemaker at Giant Bomb gives Pilotwings Resort 3 out of 5 stars. "There's no Mario game, nor a Zelda, nor even the new Kid Icarus on shelves alongside the 3DS yet," he notes. "On its own merits, Pilotwings Resort is a reasonably fun, low-impact flight simulator to play in short bursts, and it's a good showcase for the fancy 3D effects in this new handheld. But taken as the marquee first-party title at the 3DS' launch, Pilotwings Resort feels like a pretty thin offering." "The game offers three modes of aerial transport -- a biplane, a rocket belt, and a hang glider -- for use in its various events," Shoemaker continues. "You'll go on to unlock suped-up versions of these vehicles as you complete more events that handle a little differently, but in terms of gameplay styles, those three categories are basically all you get. "Most of the variety comes from Resort's five tiers of objective-based missions. In some of the more interesting levels, you'll be tasked with taking photos of specific landmarks as you sail around on the glider, shooting at balloons released by a speedboat below you, or collecting a group of wayward little UFOs and returning them to their mothership hovering offshore." Pilotwings Resort's core mechanics are solid, and work well within the context of the game's challenges. "The flight physics and core controls feel tight but relatively forgiving, and make a great case for the precision and usability of the new analog circle pad on the 3DS," Shoemaker praises. "I wish there were more examples of these clever objectives, but it feels like the bulk of the missions focuses on more basic activities like flying through rings, flying through rings quickly, and, uh, flying through rings upside down. " "Pilotwings Resort is a good diversion when you want to flip your 3DS open and just play something for 10 minutes," Shoemaker admits. "But it's over too fast; there's just not a lot of meat to sink your teeth into. Each successive tier of missions requires you to earn a certain number of stars in the previous one before you can unlock it, but even with that requirement, I got through all of tiered the missions in a couple of hours." The game's attempts to add depth also fall flat. "You can unlock longer sessions, different times of day, and a model viewer by collecting more items, but that stuff doesn't provide much lasting value since you're still flying around the same small landmass over and over," Shoemaker warns. "Then you can view your stats. Then you've seen just about all there is to see in Pilotwings Resort." "On its own merits, Pilotwings Resort offers lighthearted flight action that's fun enough while it lasts, but it just doesn't last very long," Shoemaker concludes. "Given the 3DS' relatively meager launch lineup, Pilotwings Resort is worth having in the early adopter's collection as a technical showpiece and an occasional distraction, but without a stronger Nintendo game to distract you from, the experience is fleeting."

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2011

About the Author(s)

Danny Cowan

Blogger

Danny Cowan is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist for Gamasutra and its subsites. Previously, he has written reviews and feature articles for gaming publications including 1UP.com, GamePro, and Hardcore Gamer Magazine.

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