The first entry in the franchise since Pilotwings 64 was released in 1996, Pilotwings Resort takes you to Wuhu Island, the tropical setting of Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit Plus. Developed by Monster Games, the team behind Excite Truck, Excitebots, and Excitebike: World Rally, Nintendo falls back on an old classic to help launch the 3DS, but does Pilotwings Resort soar or fall short?
Flying is very intuitive for anyone familiar with standard flying game controls. There’s no element of simulation here, so the focus is on pick-up-and-play arcade style controls. You control elevation with the thumbstick, acceleration with the A and B buttons, and tilt and barrel rolls with L and R. Pilotwings Resort requires little to no use of the stylus, and criminally does not use the new built-in gyroscope at all. Controls feel tight for the most part and the new thumbstick does the job for handling all your turns and dives. Options include standard music and effects volume controls, flight inversion, and camera lock-on toggles.
The graphics in Pilotwings Resort are bright and colorful and fully utilize the 3D functionality of the 3DS. At full 3D, the game does seem to suffer from too much depth of field and puts a noticeable strain on the old peepers. I found that 40-50% was the sweet spot for getting a good 3D effect and maintaining the experience of watching your mini-Mii take flight. Playing in 2D takes away much of the charm of the game but still offers a classic Pilotwings experience.
Your main objective in Pilotwings Resort is to fly through a series of rings to build points while aiming for low completion times. Other objectives are occasionally thrown in like shooting targets and balloons, landing and taking off on various platforms, or maintaining certain speeds and elevations.
You begin in Mission Flight mode, featuring 2-3 levels for each vessel with three stars to collect through running a quick time and hitting all rings. There is also a Free Flight mode where you can explore the locations of the game while finding collectibles and performing trick challenges. Progressing through Free Flight mode unlocks game Dioramas which can be viewed in full 3D.
The challenges are usually anything but, and even the Platinum tier fails to put up much in the way of difficulty. Once you get all stars, you unlock Diamond tier challenges but they’re more of the same. Only when you take on the task of getting a perfect score on every single level does the game turn into a staggering endeavor. Unfortunately, it really just feels like padding gameplay by asking you to keep playing the same level over and over ad naseum just go get a fraction of a second shaved off your top time.
There really is little by way of variety throughout the various vehicles, and progressing through the game’s increasingly difficult challenges feels a bit tedious and purposefully stretched to give a sense of length to the game. I played through the game getting 3 stars on all levels, a few “perfect” stars, and nearly all dioramas, in approximately six hours of play spread out over three days.
Overall, Pilotwings Resort is a fun, charming game. If it weren’t for the noticeably short length of gameplay and lack of any meaningful replay value, the game would serve its role well as a pretty demonstration of 3DS capabilities in graphics and control. Unfortunately, being able to run through all the levels in under two hours and being locked to three flight vessels makes the game feel very limited. I would highly recommend picking up Pilotwings Resort for $20, but until then borrow or rent it.