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Pilotwings 64

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Reviewed by Mike Bennett Hi, I just rented Pilotwings 64 and played it non-stop for a few days; thought I'd give you my opinion. PilotWings pretty much defines its own genre; I don't know of any other game which tests your flight skills the way it does. Most flight sims out there (there aren't many for consoles) are basically shoot-em-ups. PilotWings and its 64-bit big brother offer wide varieties of gameplay. The game works like this: Each of three vehicles, the Hang Glider, Rocket Belt, and Gyrocopter, has four classes: Beginner, "A", "B", and the Pilot Class or just "P". The beginner class features only one event for each vehicle, Class A two events, and 3 events for classes B and P. To proceed to the next class, you must obtain a Bronze medal or higher. Proceeding classes is done on a per-vehicle basis, i.e. you don't need to get a medal for each vehicle to go on (except beginner). Scoring is done out of 100 for each event, and the medal requirements are 70 for Bronze, 80 for Silver, 90 for Gold, and 100 is a perfect score (the game says this, then gives you a Gold). If you get a Silver medal in all of the beginner events, it opens up Birdman. The other classes all open up Cannonball, Skydiving, and Jumble Hopper stages. Each of the bonus vehicles (except Birdman) has 3 levels, and getting a silver medal in each level opens up another stage that you can fly around in with Birdman (4 levels total). There are 6 pilots to choose from when entering a stage, a male and female for each weight class. Lark and Kiwi are light, Goose and Ibis are medium, and Hawk and Robin (Hooter in Japanese version) are heavy. Each one handles his/her vehicle differently. I tended not to use Hawk or Robin much except in the Cannonball events. Anyway, the events are sometimes the same old "fly through the rings and land", but it's a lot more free form, because you can go back and get rings you missed and sometimes there will be 2 rings to go through, one above a bridge and another right below it, skimming the water. Guess which one you get more points for? The added features really help, like the air brake for the Rocketbelt that lets you come to a COMPLETE stop. VERY helpful when landing, and in the cave too. Oh, I didn't mention the caves. There are a few caves on the islands. Check `em out with your Rocketbelt; one of them holds a secret at its end, and the other is a mission objective. Among other objectives are: Smashing or shooting down balloons, bumping a large ball into a specific area, taking pictures of things like sea creatures and the Space Shuttle, landing on small pads, jumping across islands, and more. Each objective is different and sometimes it's fun just to fly around and ignore the objective (this is what Birdman is for). When you take pictures, each one is evaluated and you don't have to take pictures of just the objectives, you can take whatever pictures you want and store 6 of them in your photo album. Well now it's on to the ratings:

Graphics: 4.8

I found the graphics in this game to be on par with Mario 64s graphics; they were both wonderful. These graphics are flawless aside from 2 glitches I noticed. One was drawing in parts of the landscape that is coming towards you. It's fairly far away, and I suppose they had to do this to keep the frame rate up (it's usually around 20-25 frames per second, but it can drop pretty low, like when the shuttle takes off). At least it looks better than some racing games I could mention (ahem, Daytona, cough, cough). It smoothly draws them in instead of popping them up in your face. The only other problem was one or two textures looked messed up when at close range and moving. The striped lines on the runway kind of get jagged and glitchy, this is probably caused by too much interpolation or mip mapping. Other than that, the graphics are superb.

Sound: 4.0

The game had decent music and it fit the mood of whatever was happening. If you were flying the Hang Glider it would be very calm, if you were going to go blast something it was sort of suspenseful. The music that stick in my head is the Cannonball music. The sound effects were great; you could hear the gyrocopter's engine or the wind rushing by in the Hang Glider. What little voice there was, was fairly good. Each pilot had his own "Yeehah" or "Here we go" (or in Robin's case, "Ohhh, yeah"). Again, fairly good but with room for improvement.

Control: 4.0

Thank heavens for analog. This game wouldn't be possible without it. It really helps for the Rocketbelt; you can now go forward without going up and at any other angle. The Jumble Hopper and Birdman are a bit awkward (sometimes Birdman just makes me mad; they could have done this much better), but the rest is great. The only problem I have is responsiveness, especially in the Chicken Dive, but I suppose going straight down in a Hang Glider at 150 km/h slows it down just a bit.

Challenge: 4.0

The game has a fairly good learning curve, if you ask me. The beginner levels are a snap if you've ever played the original, but Class P kept me busy for hours. The variety of objectives helps insure that the later levels aren't rehashments of previous levels, too. It'd be better if there were more objectives or another class, perhaps.

I.Q. Factor: 1.5

You don't need to be a walking brain to figure out how to do well here. The only parts of the game that require thinking are mapping out a flight plan to get all of the targets or fly through X number of rings in the shortest amount of time.

Frustration Factor: 2.7

Well, usually the game is okay, but sometimes you just can't get it to do what you want it to do. My biggest frustration was taking a picture of a passenger ship. It was perfectly centered and filled up the picture, and the game must have thought it was behind something because it was just coming up over a hill. I got 0 points for the picture. The worst problem is watching those long crash scenes over and over and over.

Length: 2.5

I got 3 gold medals in the first two classes and 3 silvers in the last two in a weekend. Also in that weekend I got 2 silvers and a gold for each bonus vehicle (strangely enough, the gold was on level 3 for each). I've pretty much played all of the game I want to. Might have lasted me another week flying around with Birdman, but it just feels too short.

Replayability: 3.7

I've already mentioned that it's short, but later on I'd probably go back and try to better my scores. The scoring system adds more challenge to it because you'll probably never get 300 points for any vehicle in class P.

Overall: 4.0

A nice job by Nintendo and Paradigm. PilotWings 64 II would be great if they could fix the little problems with it.

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