Gameplay, Story and Value:
Pilotwings, AKA Mode 7: The Game, has you taking the helm of various airborne apparatuses in an effort to accumulate enough points to move on to the next set of challenges. Every stage has you controlling anything from airplanes to hanggliders to rocket packs, which varying objectives for each.
In order to advance, you’ll need to rack up a certain amount of points across each challenge in a set. This starts easy enough, with the first stage only involving landing an airplane and and making a successful parachute jump, but the requirements to progress will ramp up quickly. It never feels totally unfair though, as vehicle controls are explained before every challenge, and it only takes a couple tries before you start to get the hang of everything.
Controls in Pilotwings DEFINITELY take some getting used to, but that’s by design and isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Every vehicle handles differently, with different controls, weights, velocities, etc. and each new challenge forces you to use your vehicle in different ways. Your first challenge with the airplane, for example, has you simply touching down on a landing strip directly in front of you. The third airplane challenge, however, has you flying a long distance over the ocean, twisting and turning through rings, then finding the landing zone.
My biggest complaint with the game is simply that if you fail at any point in a challenge, you have to start the entire thing over from the beginning. For example, if a stage has four different challenges and you score highly in all but one of them and don’t meet the point requirement as a result, you’ll have to play all the other challenges over again to retry.
Equally unwelcome is the game’s password system. It’s better than nothing but it doesn’t encourage me to pick up where I left off.
Presentation, Music and Sound:
Admittedly, Pilotwings looks a lot better than I initially thought it would before playing it. It’s still not a great looking game, but the clever use of sprites and Mode7 actually provide a pretty decent looking experience. It’s easy to gauge where you are in pseudo-3D space and everything looks nice and distinct ensuring you never blend in too much with your surroundings.
There’s not much to say about the music as there’s not much music to say anything about. What little bit there is is fine, and I guess it could be argued that having music during missions could be distracting. The sound effects are all okay, though nothing special.
I actually had a much better time with Pilotwings than expected, and it has me thinking more about Pilotwings 64 which I played a lot of as a kid, and will be playing again for this project. The game is undeniably difficult, but the challenge was addicting.
Not too bad, all things considered… I just wish I could land a freaking parachute!