Pilotwings Resort Reader Review
Green tea is good. Itís not the flashiest of drinks, nor the most exciting ó when I first tried it I thought it tasted predominantly of soil ó but gradually Iíve come to appreciate its soothing charms. In todayís cluttered, ultra-stimulatory world, I like that I can spend five minutes away from the noise and action, sipping some earthy water, relaxing, letting my breath come naturally and my mind unfurl.
Pilotwings Resort, for the 3DS, gives me a similar feeling. Itís a small, quiet game, and has recently taken hold of my heart, in a low-key kind of way.
Itís just lovely. Itís lovely because of its free-flight mode, which lets you putter about its island setting in a plane, a hang glider or a rocket belt (plus more that you unlock), taking in the sights and collecting little fancies. You get to pop balloons, and popping balloons rewards you with more flight time, so you can pop even more balloons.
And there are location markers to collect, and flying through each one tells you a little story ó not a narrative, exactly, but some words to flesh out the character of the island. Thereís a dead-end halfway up the mountain that youíre told is the point hikers have to decide whether to start climbing or turn back. Or a lighthouse that was built mistakenly at twice its intended size. Or a car in the wilderness with a flat battery (ďWill they make it home before dark?Ē). The asides are breezy and cute, and come together to create a tone that puts me in mind of Miyazakiís equally calming film Kikiís Delivery Service.
Pilotwings is lovely for the contrast of its vehicles, which is perfectly judged. The rocket belt is good for exploring over short distances, because you can hover and land and make little jumps (to poke around castle grounds, or inside the town) but itís quite slow and runs out of fuel. The plane can fly forever, and lands in water and does barrel rolls (!), but it has a wide turning arc. The hang glider is my favourite of all, because youíre not in a machine but floating on the air, using thermals to gain height, and itís very relaxing. You get taken by a gust, then swoop at speed down towards the cruise ship docked in the harbour, then pull up at the last minute and soar over fields and windmill farms.
The game is lovely because of the light at sunset, which is golden and peaceful. And because during the day the blue skies stretch endlessly. And at night there are firework displays going off.
And itís lovely as well because of its challenge mode ó how itís not hard to pass the missions and move on, but youíll always be compelled to return to try for three stars, to reach that elusive perfect score.
Itís lovely because in the hang glider youíll be drifting lower and lower, and your speed will be dropping, and thereíll be a thermal away in front of you and you wonít know whether youíll make it or crash into the sea, and youíll really want to make it.
Itís lovely because Iíve come home from work at two in the morning, and instead of going to bed Iíve sat up and looked for hidden passages through the mountain (always with a balloon or other collectible inside) until the sun has come in through my window. Itís lovely because Monster Games and Nintendo have put a lot of thought into creating the coastal allure of the island, which is full of varied locations and much larger in content than you initially suspect. The more you explore, the more you find there is to explore, and the world is a rich, inviting one. Itís lovely because of the music, which doesnít draw attention to itself but is nonetheless delightful. Itís lovely because sometimes out at sea youíll notice a whale breaking the waterís surface before diving back below.
Itís lovely because playing it is like going on a little adventure.
Pilotwings Resort might not be particularly innovative or exciting ó at times it feels atavistic in its reliance on N64-era tropes and conventions ó and itís a lean package in terms of game modes, with no multiplayer at all to speak of ó but you know, sometimes that doesnít matter. I donít always want to be pushed into the future, bedazzled by some hip new genre mash-up with a punk/grimecore/patchwork aesthetic. Sometimes itís just nice to take a step back, sip some green tea, and enjoy a videogame thatís solid and enjoyable and gets its basic sense of exploration spot on.
And did I mention? itís really rather lovely.