Wing Island

Plane chickens doing mundane missions? Someone needs to buck-buck up their ideas

What is it with Wii titles and messing around with chickens? Lifting a full grown man into the air in Twilight Princess, getting shot out of a catapult in Barnyard, housing elebits on the lam - the Wii is fast becoming the chosen stomping ground of virtual chicken botherers. While Wing Island doesn't let you directly 'mess around' with the winged clucking ones, it does take some serious liberties with chicken lore by plonking the usually flightless seed-eaters into the pilot seat of a biplane.

Controlling the biplane is not dissimilar to playing with a toy aeroplane in your hand - the remote speaker even spits out the occasional ne-yooow noise to further propagate the air of childlike play. The remote basically substitutes the main body of the plane; tilting it tilts the plane, and lifting or dropping the 'nose' of the remote will result in a similar climb or descent.

The calibration of the plane on to the remote is pretty tight, so within moments of your maiden flight you'll already be able to pull off aerial manoeuvres that would have even the Crunchie biplane doing a double take.

Through this simplicity the game soon hits turbulence, however. The plane is so responsive to your hand movements that it actually feels completely frictionless - as if to suggest that you aren't actually moving against the air and that the Bernoulli principle of lift is a load of airy bunkum and it is in fact some all-powerful cloud god keeping planes aloft with his magic.

Similarly iffy are the four planes that accompany you on the majority of the missions. They doggedly stay by your side no matter how much peril this puts them in: squeeze through a narrow cliff gorge and they'll scrape along the side; execute too sharp a turn when close to the ground and you'll see the planes on the extremities of the formation diving to earth. You can change your team formation with a simple tap of A, but your moronic team-mates are simply not programmed to take any evasive action, no matter how obviously it's needed.

This lack of flight realism would be slightly easier to stomach if the missions you were directing these plane-shaped things through were similarly lightweight arcade-y affairs. Alas, they're not - they're thoroughly tough tasks and take as their blueprints the very epitome of flight game excellence Pilotwings 64. Travelling from point A to point B, navigating through floating rings, destroying targets with bombs and taking photos of certain parts of the landscape - you name it, all this genius has been nabbed from Pilotwings.

The only major difference is that Pilotwings didn't try and disguise its simplistic missions with a silly tale of avian aviators, and if it had, it certainly wouldn't have possessed the same frankly bizarre nature-hating bent of Wing Island. For a community of birds they don't half detest the natural world.

By the end of the game you'll have demolished intricate coastal rock formations, sprayed pesticides all over the shop, shot nets at cows, bothered a school of whales and helped encourage a celebration of industrial might. While a game about evil chickens ragging on nature may sound tempting, all the above is accomplished by pressing the B button at the right moment - proving that even anarchy is dull in Wing Island.

You might want to argue that if these simple mission types were good enough for Pilotwings then they're good enough for Wing Island right? Wrong. The problem is that they weren't that good in Pilotwings - as standalone tasks they're a bit rubbish. What made Pilotwings great was the level of sophisticated vehicle mastery required to ace these rather simplistic tasks. Take away this mastery, as Wing Island's overly responsive planes have, and the missions are revealed to be the basic time-limited distance trawls that they really are.

With any luck its mediocrity will prompt Nintendo into making a Pilotwings title. Then the Wii can really take flight.

The verdict

Heralded by some as a potential Pilotwings replacement, this is in no way as deep, clever or fun. Naff missions tackled in a vehicle not even remotely handling like a plane.

Nintendo Wii
Action, Flight Sim