PilotWings 64 review

By a complete stroke of luck I recently managed to grab myself an original PilotWings 64 cart. This is a game that I’ve been wishing for years would have gotten a Virtual Console release on either the Wii or Wii U but never happened. With a combination of the original cartridge and a brand spankin’ new (third-party) controller, I got to relive another part of my gaming childhood.

And here’s what I thought about it…

Gameplay: 4½/5 – Like so many great N64 games, PilotWing’s draw is still the gameplay. It’s smooth, simple and intuitive. But more-over it’s fun. The various vehicles are just a joy to try out and flying is very satisfying. The one small problem I have is with the hang-glider which honestly I can’t seem to get a good handle on but everything else is spot on.

Graphics: 3½/5 – One has to bear in mind that this is an N64 launch title and thus lacks a lot of the refinement seen in later games. The messy pixels in particular are a bit of an eye-sore. However, the characters look distinct and the locales are varied and interesting. From the twilight cityscapes to the snowy mountain-tops, the game still manages to impress me a fair bit even if it’s not representing the sharpest edge of graphics available for the time. Plus, I love the screwy design of the characters.

Animation: 4/5 – I really gotta give it for this game with the replay functionality, the squirmy movements, the hilarious crash physics and, as silly as it seems, the beautiful snow-fall. It would maybe be nice if the character movements weren’t so rigid, but this is still pretty good.

Music: 5/5 – The music has a cheesy 90s MIDI vibe to it and I love it. The Gyrocopter theme has got to be my favourite but all the music in this game just gets my nostalgia juices flowing.

Sound: 3½/5 – There maybe isn’t a lot to write home about with the audio design but I do like the character’s individual shrieks when you select them or crash as them. The sound-effects are also fun and cartoony, but that’s about it.

Replay value: 4/5 – I could maybe complain about the amount of stages but the better you get at completing them, the more extra content you unlock and, honestly, who doesn’t love flying? The game just hits my pleasure centres with its aesthetics and gameplay and makes me want to come back for more.

Score: 82% – PilotWings 64 is a game where you have to be willing to look past its age. Once you do, you’ll discover an incredibly enjoyable flight game where, despite the goals being fairly straight-forward and simple, you’ll enjoy yourself just because of the sensation of flying around. It is an amazingly fun game still and one of my all time favourites.

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