A screenshot of a hang glider mission where you must fly through rings. Courtesy of Gamekyo.com

“Pilotwings Resort” for 3DS is the first sequel in the Pilotwings franchise in almost 15 years. The series has a cult following, and fans have been clamoring for a sequel since the days of the Nintendo 64. This March, alongside the launch of 3DS, their prayers have finally been answered.

“Pilotwings Resort,” at its core, plays just like its predecessors. Players control flying vehicles and try to complete missions by flying through rings, popping balloons, shooting targets and landing on landing strips. The game takes place on Wuhu Island, a setting that Nintendo has used in both Wii Fit and Wii Sports Resort. The island is perfectly suited for the game — the beautiful landscapes along with the stereoscopic 3-D visuals make for some breathtaking views. Seriously, most launch titles have been criticized for simply using 3-D superficially, but this is definitely not the case with “Pilotwings Resort.” The 3-D not only makes the island vistas pop, but also help you perfectly gauge the whereabouts of the next ring you have to fly through or the next target you have to land on.

The game has you control one of three vehicles: the plane, the rocket pack or the hang glider. Each vehicle plays very differently — the rocket pack allows you to make quick and tight turns, while the plane offers pure speed. For those who want the most relaxing experience, the hang glider is a great way to lazily float around on thermals while listening to the game’s best sound track (smooth, smooth jazz). The game has two modes: free flight and mission mode. The free flight mode allows you to aimlessly fly around the island and pick up a myriad of collectibles, while mission mode challenges you with specific tasks. Mission mode will rank you out of three stars on your flying ability, and the more stars you get, the more levels will open up. If you liked any of the previous Pilotwings games or are a fan of flight simulators, you should find the game has a lot to offer you. Whether it’s the frustrating difficulty of some of the mission modes or the ease and relaxedness of free flight, both are a ton of fun. Everything that the game has to offer is sheer enjoyment, and you’ll find yourself unable to put it down.

Unfortunately, this only further exacerbates Pilotwings’ one big flaw: it’s pretty short. You can play every mission in about three hours, but you definitely wont get three stars in each. Please don’t let this discourage you, though. The game offers some really hard missions, and the credits won’t roll until you get three stars on each level. It took me about 10 hours or more to achieve three stars on every level, and there is still plenty more for me to unlock in free flight mode. If you aren’t a completionist, and replaying the same levels in order to achieve perfect scores doesn’t appeal to you, then you should stay away. Finally, with the 3DS offering some great online and social functions, it is disappointing to see such a great franchise and game being rushed to make launch. The game could have been much longer and could have offered StreetPass, multiplayer or online modes. What you do get is really fun, but it isn’t the most fully-fledged game you’ll ever see. 3.5/5

Penney is a member of the class of 2012.

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