SummaryA novel approach to flight games that is both realistic and fun
The GoodWhen released in 1990, Pilotwings was a novelty. The game showed what kind of graphical tricks the SNES could produce by making extensive use of Mode 7 scaling effects. Moreover I think it also introduced some new styles of gameplay. Pilotwings is a "sim-lite" that simulates piloting a hangglider, a rocketbelt, free-falling & parachuting and finally the more traditional bi-plane. With these aircrafts you'll have to perform stunts to complete missions. There are not many games like Pilotwings. The only games that come to (my) mind are the sequel Pilotwings 64, Aerowings and Sky Odyssey; but the last two focus only on aeroplanes. Pilotwings let me do stuff I had not done before in almost twenty years of playing computer games, which made the game interesting for me.
The gameplay in Pilotwings is more realistic than I expected it to be. All the aircraft have a certain amount of momentum, when you're flying in one direction you can't just turn on a dime and go in another direction. Both the strength and direction of the wind are also huge factors to take into account when controlling the aircraft. Thus it takes a while and a fair amount of practice before the controls become second nature and you've learned to counter the influences of wind and gravity. It was fun to pilot five completely different types of airplanes (hangglider, light plane, rocketbelt, parachute and the attack chopper in the bonus missions).
Pilotwings doesn't deafen the player with a bombardment of tunes and bleeps. It has calm and relaxing music that somewhat neutralizes the inevitable frustration that arises from the difficult mission objectives. The game's sound effects are excellent; hearing the wind blow past me while free-falling was impressive. The graphics department is decent, Pilotwings looks good for a first generation SNES title. Mode 7 effects are used to convincingly represent different altitudes.
The BadPilotwings is a rather short game, if you'd do everything perfect on your first try you could probably finish it within 45 minutes. But because the game is rather difficult you'll have to train and replay a lot and you'll get many more hours out of Pilotwings. In fact I don't think there ever was a game in which I had to replay missions over and over again as much as with this one. This is mostly due to the fact that you can't save your game after a mission within a lesson. If you've scored very well on hanggliding, skydiving and the rocketbelt, you can still ruin your score with a bad performance with the light plane. This makes Pilotwings frustrating in it's later stages when you need to score a lot of points to advance to the next level / lesson.
It would have been nice if there was some sort of free-form / sandbox mode. After you've completed the eight regular lessons and the two bonus missions there's really no replay value.
The Bottom LineA good first-generation flight game that strikes the right balance between simulation and fun. Miyamoto manages to turn the usually very serious flight-sim genre into something fun and playable.