Thursday, 11 June 2015

Memory Review 2: Pilotwings Resort

Memory reviews: A series of highly subjective weekly reviews of games I no longer own, arranged in the order in which I played them, starting with the most recent. These reviews are likely to be shorter than previous reviews, especially later ones and hopefully will capture the points, good and bad, that stood out and stuck with me about the games in question. 
For a more detailed description of this idea, click here.
Previous review: Paper Mario Sticker Star.

Pilotwings Resort was a launch title for the Nintendo 3DS, and together with Steel Diver and Nintendogs and Cats made up Nintendo's first party offerings. It's likely that part of the reasoning behind this was that a game about flight would be well suited to showing off the consoles 3D technology, see "You think in such three dimensional terms" below.
There are three basic vehicle types as well as a flying squirrel type of thing unlocked later on. Advanced versions of each are unlocked as the game goes on. Here we come to the first memory hurdle, how do these different vehicles control? Ummm. The most honest answer I can give is that they control as you would expect them to. The plane moves at speed and maintains its altitude, so the focus is on navigation and turns. The glider requires currents to stay up, I think, so the focus there is on maintaining altitude and covering ground quickly so as not to miss out on high up targets. The jet pack also focuses on altitude and is the slowest of the three, there may have been a fuel mechanic for this one as well as a penalty for hitting the ground too hard. The fact that the exact mechanisms of the game are somewhat unclear in my mind after only a few years says a lot about the functional if forgettable nature of Pilotwings Resort. In addition, the game has some lifespan issues which will be discussed later on. 
Part of the challenge of trying to write a review of Pilotwings Resort from memory is trying to distinguish elements from this game from parts of Wii Sports Resort (an excellent game which I may cover later in this series). Let me explain. Pilotwings Resort is divided into two sections: mission mode and exploration mode. In exploration mode you can use all three vehicles to explore the same tropical islands you explored by plane in Wii Sports Resort in search of secrets and information points. While the text for these points is entertaining and the main island has a number of secret caves and passageways which are a challenge both to find and to navigate, the fact is most players have likely done this before.
This leaves most of the job of justifying the game to the mission mode. Sadly there is a limited number of short missions to play. This is not necessarily a problem in every game; a small number of missions can provide lots of entertainment and replay value either through high score challenges or by introducing some sort of variability to each replay (as in the recent trend of rogue-like games1). Pilotwings Resort falls flat in both these areas. The missions are unchanging, during each replay you fly through the same targets positioned in the same positions, so multiple attempts quickly get repetitive. The game includes a scoring system in which you are scored out of three stars based on your performance. Even on paper, this is obviously a broad and imprecise system. There's no feedback or indications as to why some attempts get two stars rather than three. The witchcraft that determines whether your landing was good is particularly nebulous.
In a game with more courses, a cryptic scoring system would be less of an issue. In such a game, once you've taken off as much time, corrected as many mistakes as you can and tried as many alternate routes as you feel inclined to you can move on and repeat the process in a different level. But because it has only a few courses Resort insists you fixate on getting ill-defined perfect scores in unchanging missions in an already overfamiliar environment if you want to get more than an afternoon out of it. To conclude, personally I found that Pilotwings didn't have enough content to justify the price I paid for it, which may have contributed to the 3DS' initial failure to take off. 


You think in such three dimensional terms

Personally, I'm not interested in 3D films or games. Especially in the case of films I find that the brain can roughly determine from 2D images how close or far away something is from things like size and shadows and so on, so a 3D effect adds little. For me, the most impressive (read actually noticeable) 3D effect in Avatar was the robot dog that kicks the floating ball into the audience before the film started. When you have 3D foreground elements that touch the frame it shatters the illusion of depth, at least for me anyway. A plane/glider/rocketman in the foreground, that does not come into contact with any larger objects (all things going well) exploring an open space is a good fit for showing off the 3D effect.

1: This represents the only time when this blog will attempt to comment on recent trends in videogames. I am sorry for any distress and confusion this has caused.

And now we're proud to present a statement from celebritii Miister X about the game that a hard working intern acquired for us.
"I believe I made it clear in my last message not to call this agency again unless you're interested in entering into another financial arrangement with Miister X or one of my other clients. You're phone number will now been blocked. Uh. Johnathon, how do hang up, wait no I have"

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