Pros: + Good graphics + Good use of 3D + Collectibles and ranks extend gameplay + Great controls + Difficulty curve is just right + Challenging later missions are a lot of fun
Cons: – Really short – Only one island chain – Not much variety in mission conditions – Some draw distance issues
PilotWings isn’t a franchise we see often. Usually, it shows up to demonstrate the capabilities of a new Nintendo system, like with the SNES and 64. PilotWings Resort is modestly successful in what it sets out to do. It uses the 3DS’s most prominent feature pretty well, though your mileage may vary as to whether or not it’s used in a meaningful way. Still, the return to Wii Sports Resort’s Wuhu Island is mostly a successful one.
The 3D effect gives you a better sense of your position, helping you to adjust your descent and trajectory. You’ll still do fine without it, thanks in large part to the game’s excellent controls, but the 3D can help you navigate caves, fly through rings and land more smoothly and accurately.
Most of the gameplay comes from Mission Mode, which features several ranks, from Training to Platinum. PilotWings starts off with the kiddy gloves on, but it’s not long before the missions start playing hardball. Early on, you’re completing rudimentary tasks like flying through a series of rings, but the later missions mix things up by having you do things like follow vehicles through narrow caves while shooting balloons they release—without running into anything—all within a set amount of time. When you’re not doing things like simply flying from checkpoint to checkpoint, the missions are a lot more enjoyable, but you don’t see too many outside-the-box goals.
Fortunately, the difficulty curve is merciful. Over the course of Mission Mode, new concepts are gradually introduced, building on the mechanics you’ve learned in previous sections. If you don’t quite have a handle on a new mission, you can always go back and sharpen your skills in earlier ones. And even if you have a lot of trouble, it’s usually harder to get 0 stars out of 3 than it is to get 3.
The Free Flight mode is more relaxed. In this side mode, you can fly around Wuhu Island in any craft you’ve unlocked in Mission Mode. During these brief flights, you find pickups scattered across the tropical resort, near landmarks or hidden in more obscure locations. As you gain more, you add to your high score and earn bonuses like increased maximum flight time. On top of that, for every 20 items you grab with each craft, you earn a diorama to view in 3D outside the main game.
It’s just as well that PilotWings Resort has a good amount of unlockables and hidden items, because the main game is pretty short. Unless you’re aiming for a perfect score in every mission, Mission Mode will take about four hours to complete. Coming back to Mission Mode to improve your high scores will keep you coming back, but the lack of online leaderboards to show off your scores and completion times to other players or friends is baffling. Add to that a general lack of mission variety and PilotWings Resort feels very rushed.
You get three basic craft in PilotWings: Airplanes, hang gliders and jetpacks. Each gets an upgrade once you complete a certain amount of missions in the main mode. These upgrades are alternate craft that have added effects to make them a little more fun to use. So, instead of a hang glider, you can ride a “sky bike,” which allows you to pedal for a little extra distance or height. Still, most of the vehicles don’t do a lot to differentiate themselves, and even the upgrades don’t feel very different—two of them are just faster versions of the normal craft.
Oddly enough, Resort doesn’t have the variety its predecessor on the Nintendo 64 boasted. Wuhu Island is the game’s only location, where 64 had several different islands, all of which could have different weather patterns. Remember skydiving? There’s barely a hint of it in Resort, with only one mission making use of it.
PilotWings Resort looks pretty good; Wuhu Island looks as good on 3DS as it did in Wii Sports Resort. You can fly at three times of day, and while the lighting and color on all times look great, the sunset flights steal the show. The purple shades and orange highlights on the sky and sea look great while you soar above the islands. That’s nice and all, but there’s just not a whole lot to look at—a five-minute flight around the map will reveal almost everything there is to see. That said, flying scant feet above a town or plunging into a volcano’s vent can be thrilling, especially with the 3D active.
There are some draw distance issues, though they’re only immediately apparent when flying from one island to the next. You’ll notice trees and other details popping in as you near an island, and little nags like that take away from an otherwise great-looking game.
But that’s PilotWings Resort’s M.O. It’s a good game that makes some big missteps and just doesn’t have the same appeal as its predecessor, besides its updated graphics and 3D effects. Maybe more time and care could have made it a worthy entry in the PilotWings series, but it’s hard to recommend Resort when it has so little to offer.
Rent/Bargain Bin: What’s here is good, but it feels really stripped-down. Wait for a price drop or rent it over a weekend.
Decent: PilotWings Resort is by no means a bad game, but while it’s fun to play, its technically inferior Nintendo 64 predecessor brings more to the table. What’s more, there are few really creative missions.