Welcome back, Pilotwings. After 15 years in the wilderness, the game that helped launch both the SNES and the N64 returns, and on a unique new machine where its status as a kind of playable, explorable tech demo will surely be most appreciated.
Sadly, we've got to begin on a rather negative point, because in last month's preview we said we'd be 'gutted' if there was nothing but plain old Wuhu Island in the game.
Well, guess what... Pilotwings Resort really does have just the one location. Having already featured as the backdrop for three games, we know Wuhu Island off by heart.
We've flown down the same volcano, collected the same information points and seen all the same cave systems in Wii Sports Resort, and such familiarity really diminishes the impact of Pilotwings.
Shigeru Miyamoto's assertion that Wuhu Island is a 'character' in its own right simply doesn't wash with us. You can't build a single level and have it serve as the setting for multiple subsequent games, especially when the level is as small as this.
The flying minigame in Wii Sports Resort covered all the exploration we ever wanted to do on Wuhu. Consequently there's nothing new to see in Pilotwings, at least not in Free Flight mode.
There are no weather effects, and no signs of life on the ground other than a few parked cars. Pilotwings 64 had icy cliffs, vast plains, cities, mountain ranges, rather blurry rainforests and so on, all spread over multiple islands. By comparison, Pilotwings Resort is tiny.
On the plus side, the quality of the missions is, with just one exception (curse you, Balloon Buster), uniformly excellent. The addition of speed gates, which you can only break through if you're going fast enough, forces you to do the kind of risky manoeuvres you'd rarely be asked to perform in Pilotwings 64.
Another type of gate makes bonus tokens appear, parachuting out of the sky or rising on balloons, again encouraging you to try something different for a maximum score.
And if you do achieve a perfect rating, the game's bizarre entreaty to try again for an 'even higher' score next time, which we initially assumed to be a mistake, is absolutely correct - you can be better than perfect by completing missions faster and more efficiently.
All of this makes it a nice high-score challenge, as there's no upper limit. As soon as you've maxed out a mission, try it again to see if you can add a few points on top. You still have to fulfil all the criteria for a perfect run before the game will start accounting for any extra skills you've shown.
Annoyingly, though, your scores are kept for your own personal leaderboard, and won't pop up on any of the other three profiles you can store on the cart.
There are three basic types of aircraft to try out - hang glider, aeroplane and rocket belt - and each has a special variant used in Free Flight mode as well as a few of the missions. For the rocket belt, it's just a faster, more powerful version. The slow propeller plane has a jet version, which is particularly exciting in first-person camera mode (sadly not available in the other types of vehicle), and the hang glider is partnered by a pedal-powered contraption that maintains its altitude as long as you keep tapping the A button.
The planes are equipped with cannons, used for shooting at targets in some of the missions, while the gliders have a camera which, when available, can be used to save pics onto the SD card.
There's no special rocket belt function, as any spare buttons are used to shift the viewpoint above and below your character - essential for locating the next ring you're supposed to fly through.