Giant Bomb Review


Pilotwings Resort Review

  • 3DS

Nintendo's latest fanciful flight sim is fun enough for a few minutes at a time, but won't provide you much lasting value.

 Fly through that ring or diiiiiiiiiieeeeee!!!!!!
Like the Super NES and Nintendo 64 before it, Nintendo's new 3DS arrives this weekend with a Pilotwings game nestled in its launch lineup. If you were around for the releases of those hallowed old consoles, you probably remember Pilotwings as "the thing you put in occasionally when you got tired of the new Mario game." But there's no Mario game, nor a Zelda, nor even the new Kid Icarus on shelves alongside the 3DS yet. 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. 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. 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. 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.

Despite some repetition in the mission design, Pilotwings Resort is a good diversion when you want to flip your 3DS open and just play something for 10 minutes. 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. There's also a free flight mode where you collect various trinkets and do stunts as you explore the island, but this mode doesn't feel particularly "free," since it's initially limited to only two-minute bursts of flight time. 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. Then you can view your stats. Then you've seen just about all there is to see in Pilotwings Resort.

 The rocket belt provides the most control of all your flight options.
Nintendo has done a good job bringing Pilotwings up to speed with the look and feel of its other Mii-ridden first-party fare. The game takes place on Wuhu Island, the same tropical getaway that made games like Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit Plus feel so festive, and of course your system-level 3DS Mii appears front and center to pilot all of the game's aircraft. Pilotwings Resort doesn't offer a mindblowing level of graphical fidelity--its rendition of Wuhu Island looks qualitatively pretty similar to what you've seen on the Wii--but flying around its lighthouses, bridges, and rocky outcroppings gives you a good chance to mess around with the 3DS' sense of depth. Personally, I found Pilotwings' sweet spot to be with the 3D just barely enabled, providing just a subtle touch of depth without feeling overwhelming. Pushing the 3D slider much past the quarter-full point made it really hard for me to focus and resulted in the image appearing to split in two, but the 3D looked great at that lower level. As with every 3DS game, your experience will likely vary from game to game, and from person to person.

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. As if the brevity of the mission lineup weren't enough, there's no support for StreetPass or the 3DS' other nifty system-level features that would have let you further explore all the cool stuff your new handheld can do. 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. Brad Shoemaker on Google+
34 Comments Refresh
Edited by JimmyJackJones

So you're saying this franchise doesn't have wings? 
I'm sorry.  I'm so sorry.  I don't think this review is even saying that.  I just couldn't resist the awful pun.

Posted by Animasta
@JimmyJackJones said:
" So you're saying this franchise doesn't have wings?  I'm sorry.  I'm so sorry. "
a last resort joke, huh?
Posted by Aquavelvaman

ctrl+f jumble hopper 

Posted by keithfreitag

crap, i'm too late :(

Posted by ReyGitano
@Laketown said:
" @JimmyJackJones said:
" So you're saying this franchise doesn't have wings?  I'm sorry.  I'm so sorry. "
a last resort joke, huh? "
You're both awful people. I approve.
Posted by Billychu

The only games I'm getting at launch are Pilotwings, a very content lite tech demo, and Ghost Recon, a DS project that got switched to 3DS.  Not a great start, but then again it's certainly better than the original DS and that system ended up becoming my favorite system of all time.

Posted by wolf_blitzer85

I can definitely say after playing around with the demo they had at Target, I too had to turn the 3D slider down quite a bit before finding that sweet spot.

Posted by buft

poor showing though maybe that nostalgia remembering the game but they should have done better

Posted by Wes899
@SlashseveN303 said:
" @Laketown said:
" @JimmyJackJones said:
" So you're saying this franchise doesn't have wings?  I'm sorry.  I'm so sorry. "
a last resort joke, huh? "
You're both awful people. I approve. "
It's like the game developer was on auto pilot throughout the entire development process. 
(Kill me now)
Posted by EgoCheck616

So glad you chose to spend your time with this instead of Rift.

Posted by Woodroez

I would play the free flight modes on the 64 for...I'm not sure how long since that was 15 years ago or something, but it seems like I could do the birdman thing for like an hour at a time. I found it easy to bask in the final light of a sunset while divebombing through cities, trying to land on monuments and listening to mellow jazz. 
Speaking of, what's the music like in this?
Posted by GetEveryone

I've clicked onto GB and had a new story with no posts so many times.   
GB, why must you be so cruel? Stop making me fight for first place; something I haven't done since Ain't It Cool's glory years... 

Posted by crit1cal


Posted by TheKing

This and Street Fighter are going to be my launch games Sunday. Seems like the most obvious choice.

Posted by LordAndrew

People got tired of Super Mario World?

Posted by WinterSnowblind

One of my friends bought this at launch last night and literally had it finished in a matter of hours..  Explored everything and had all gold medals in just over 2 hours. 
I do think it's something that would be fun to go back to and play for a few minutes on a train journey or whatever.

Posted by Willy105

Looks like this is this gen's Sonic R.  Great showcase for the system, but incredibly short.
But hopefully this revives the IP from the dead.

Posted by ImperiousRix

I really enjoyed Pilotwings 64.  Just a weird little game to fly shit around in. 
I'll probably end up picking this one up when I get the 3DS, but hopefully at a discounted price.

Posted by steelknight2000

Is there any flight stick support?

Posted by duttyfoot

nice review. i will be getting this plus something else for sure. what i am looking forward to the most is being able to play the games for virtual console :)

Posted by SpudBug

Shame that there aren't more events or locations but I think I'll have a good time with it and I'm only paying $15 for it with the 3DS due to the kmart deal. I think that's a lot more reasonable. Really love this series.

Posted by Trebz

That basically matches up with a lot of what I've heard about Pilotwings. 
I'm going to spend the $35 credit that Amazon is forcing me to spend on a 3DS game on this; for about $5 it sounds more than worth it.

Posted by Plasticpals

I'm disappointed by this, but then Brad didn't mention there was a squirrel suit - anything else in there that didn't get mentioned in the review?  No parachutes?  No cannon ball?  No gyrocopter?  No birdman suit?  No jumble hopper?  No alternative pilots like the ones from the N64 version?  No weather options?  If not, it seems like this game was in development for like 6 months.  

Posted by anon463728

Thanks for the well written review, Brad! I decided to give Pilotwings a try due to being a fan of  the N64 game.
Posted by abara

the Nintendo 64 didn't come before the SNES, Brad

Posted by Trifork89

when he said "like the Super NES and N64 that came before it" he meant that the Snes and N64 came before the 3DS.
Posted by 234r2we232

Brad. They put you on the front cover... and you can still only give it three stars? 
So heartless.

Posted by wizeguy

the games not bad, ive been playing it since friday and like brad i had to put the 3d at just over a quarter as it went blurry for my eyes.  but all im all its a cool little game for but or train journeys.  

Posted by TheMartino

I have to agree, if the 3D slider gets past the quarter mark, it all falls apart.

Not having this problem with other titles though. Just this.

Posted by rottendevice

The screens are strongly reminiscent of Pilotwings 64.  I may have to get a hold of it based on nostalgia alone.

Posted by ZRLeigh

Good review. I'm disappointed that the game isn't longer though.

Edited by BBQBram

I'm on the fence about this one. On the one hand it's probably a nice little distraction and I want to see the 3D in something with movement into the screen (only have SSFIV3D so far) - on the other it seems about the size of a downloadable game being sold at full price. What do...

Posted by Knutsi
@TheMartino: I've been regularly playing it on slightly below max, but it does seem to be the case that people's eyes wary (my girlfriend cannot handle the 3D being on at all.)  I've found that with the slider high, your eyes need to shift focus between the craft and the landscape while you are in the air, since it is much closer to you than the rest of the image.  With the slider high, the landscape gets allot more depth and looks stunning, but I need to only look at it, and not the craft.  
Posted by milsorgen

"you probably remember Pilotwings as "the thing you put in occasionally when you got tired of the new Mario game.""

With a line like that I simply cannot take this review seriously. Obviously this guy doesn't have a lot of experience with Nintendo or the Pilotwings franchise. As a kid I received the NES when I was about 7 with Mario, Burgertime and Rad Racer. My house had a 2600, a genesis and later a super, 64 and playstation. Now I was not going without titles to play and I cannot disagree more that Pilotwings was something you put in occasionally when you're bored of Mario. That is the most asinine comment I have ever heard and I simply cannot believe a single word of this guys write up.