Considered as the spiritual successor to Pilotwings that was developed for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System that dates back to 1990 in Japan. The retro arcade flight simulation game that was made before I was even born mimics 3D graphics by utilizing the SNES Mode 7 capability by rotating and scaling flat objects. Thanks to its graphical presentation, it was well received and also span sequels like Pilotwings 64 for the Nintendo 64 and Pilotwings Resort for the Nintendo 3DS.
Fast forward to the current day in the year 2018, it doesn’t sound as good as it first did. Visually, it’s blocky and unappealing while the movement is rather clunky and hard to maneuver. Similar to Pilotwings, it has what you’d expect from the classic biplane gameplay, hang glider, jetpack and skydiving. So while it is not the most stunning game out in the market, what it has is the nostalgic feel of a game that made its mark in Nintendo’s life cycle. And with its different play styles among the four different aircrafts, it wouldn’t really be complete without the seven types of challenges out of the fifty levels packed in five tiers. Race the clock to get the fastest clear time as you fly through hoops or score as much points before the time runs out. Maybe reaching the farthest point with a hang glider is more your thing or simply just hovering through platforms in a jetpack while managing fuel. Most of which are fun to do yet pretty hard to master.
It’s a simple game with simple control schemes. Surely, it isn’t hard right? Sadly, I was so wrong in that regard as I get to struggle long hours just to get used to the flight controls for most of them. They say you can never be a master overnight but it definitely didn’t stop me from having fun nonetheless. What it does get your blood boiling though is the lack of quality of life improvements on the controls despite having only one to three buttons to press and only the left stick to navigate.
- Biplane – makes your trigger buttons for increasing or decreasing the thrust, the X button for the breaks and the left stick to navigate. This is pretty much the most fun to play in but at times I find it a struggle to play with when the craft itself auto-align itself to the center of gravity than holding its position when I let go of the stick.
- Hang Glider – puts your X button to break and the left stick to navigate. It’s rather hard to play with this considering that descending feels heavy while picking up speed requires you to descend before ascending.
- Jetpack – this, however, makes your X button for thrust and left stick to navigate but the biggest difference here is increasing or decreasing altitude would require you to simply press X while not holding the left stick for it to thrust up and releasing the X button to descend.
- Skydiving – your right trigger becomes a dive button, in this case, X button is to release the parachute and the left stick to navigate. Although my only complaint when it comes to skydiving is there’s no way to move around when initiating a dive as it only goes straight down.
And while I have my minor complaints about each one, my greatest issue at playing the game is their overall lack of camera controls with the right stick. This makes initiating sharp turns with the biplane or anything at all a guessing game on how hard I should turn when the next hoop itself is out of the screen or when I’m simply lost on where to go during my first try at a challenge level.
The game itself is not fun if not played with others. You’re already going at it alone in singleplayer but what I find a huge disappointment is the lack of online multiplayer. YES! Online multiplayer! It’s 2018 and for a game, to lack, an online mode seems unreal to me. However, we do get up to four players split-screen mode which is the next best thing. If you have at least three friends or family members willing to do it with you, that is. And unlike singleplayer mode that forces you to get a set amount of gold medals to unlock the next tier of challenges which I must say is a tad bit too hard in some cases, multiplayer lets you customize the set of challenges among every tier with or without having to clear them in the singleplayer sessions. This lets you get into the action and gives you complete control on how long and how many levels you can do to rack up the points before the big finish! It isn’t without its flaws though, as inverting camera axis is a huge deal in my case that I could never get into the groove without it aligning to my needs. But the way it works on multiplayer is you’d have to lock it in on the character selection as there’s no way to change it in between levels, unlike singleplayer mode that you could just press the options and casually change it on the fly. With this in mind, I find skydiving confusing when I choose to invert the axis to make my biplane or hang glider much easier to control.
Visuals can be a bit jarring for its blocky terrain and mountainous regions. The eight characters available doesn’t exactly scream professional pilots either. You have what looks like the president’s bodyguard #3, a woman dressed for an 80’s dance party or gothic punks like they just don’t care. There is, however, a female fighter jet pilot stereotype among the mix and a man that simply screams aviator extraordinaire. What I do hate about them is their midget-sized frames that never looks good no matter what game I see them on. Either be a Japanese-style chibi form or a Korean-style perfect bod and we won’t have any problems. Animations, I find them very important and this game is lacking on a lot of them. Most movement feels as stiff as a wooden flat board and overlapping issues when it comes to landing towards the ground. And probably the most annoying issue is the timer stopping delay after a successful landing on a parachute and the slow crawl to show your scores which also doesn’t have an indication which counts as a bronze ribbon, a silver star or a gold medal. Though praises must be said for its fast loading times and almost instant load times when initiating a level retry.
Pilot Sports came in with a great idea… relive an old classic but it fell short to hit its mark. For a current generation game, it doesn’t feel worth the outrageous price of $29.99 for the PlayStation 4 version. It borrowed so much on nostalgia to pick itself up that it never really tried to stray away from the original and bring something new to the table with more aircrafts to learn and master. The difficulty hurdles during singleplayer progression, however, give for a rewarding feeling as you set your eyes to be the top of the leaderboards yet it comes off as more of a “buzz off” to newcomers and casual players alike.