If asked to give one word which describes this game, it would have to be 'freedom'. Freedom in the sense of being able to go wherever you damn well please. So many games put you in tantalising environments, but prevent you from doing anything outside of the defined rules. But in Pilotwings 64 there are no rules, your only constraints are the laws of physics set out in the 3D world and these are surprisingly realistic. All you have to worry about is crashing into things.
On a wing and a prayer...
Sure, to complete objectives properly and get enough points to move on you have to perform the tasks impeccably, but the beauty of this game is that you don't have to. Should you miss a ring or exceed the time limit, you don't lose a life and get sent back to the start, rather you are allowed to keep going on your own accord until you decide to end the game. At worst you may be forced to land when you run out of fuel, but even then you still have a chance to make a safe touchdown if you know what you're doing. It's very hard to get bored of Pilotwings. It's one of those things in life that, like shopping malls and Hyper magazine, really does have something in it for everyone. You may well be able to give Bruce Spence a run for his money in the gyrocopter (though you can't drop snakes on people), but have you sat down and mastered the hang glider? And when you do finally master a vehicle or device, then you can really start to have fun pushing it to its limits as you explore the well crafted 3D landscapes. Pilotwings 64 has been brilliantly designed and is a joy to play, whatever level of skill you're at and, as such, it's very hard to find fault with it. It is a pity that there aren't more active objects to deal with, particularly in the shooting department (duelling gyrocopters could have been fun), but otherwise Pilotwings 64 is comprehensive and highly enjoyable with enough depth to keep even hardened flight sim freaks engrossed. The only folks who might be disappointed are those that require big explosions and the like to keep them entertained.
Gyrocopter You may think that a gyrocopter is an odd choice, but it actually turns out to be the perfect mode of transport for this game. Although it doesn't quite reach warp speed, it manages to convey a real sense of flying and many hours can be spent just buzzing around admiring the scenery, or trying to do silly things like landing on boats. Your objectives are either to fly through a series of rings, or shoot rockets at specific targets. That's right, you can shoot things! This is a Nintendo game, however, so you can't actually destroy parts of the islands or their inhabitants, but it's jolly good fun nonetheless.
Hang Glider Mastering the hang glider is probably the least popular yet most rewarding part of the game. It may seem slow and boring to the casual observer, but for the experienced pilot it can provide one of the most intense challenges of the game. The thing is that you've got no power to pull yourself out of danger, the only way to gain height is by flying through thermals. The obvious rule is to not get yourself into trouble in the first place, but that's not that easy when you're concentrating intensely on getting through the rings or trying to take that perfect photo.
Rocket Pack Man has always looked to the sky and wished for the flight of a bird. Icarus tried gluing wings on, but that didn't work. So NASA scientists came up with the next best thing, strapping a couple of rockets onto one's back and letting rip... and who can resist? Just try not to be too high when the fuel runs out! As well as the standard 'fly through the rings' bit, there are a couple of highly irregular tasks to perform. One is bouncing a gigantic green ball half way across the islands, another asks you to pop more bouncing balls by dashing head- long into them. Odd, but strangely compelling.
Bonus stages First up is the cannon. Pick whichever character you hate the most, stuff 'em down the barrel and send 'em skyward. Or into the side of a cliff, if you're feeling particularly spiteful. Next is the sky diving. You're given a minute or so to link up in a series of aerial formations with three of the other characters, then it's free fall time. Remember Huckleberry Hound's words of advice. "Just count to three and pull the rip cord." For those skilful enough to successfully complete the P class, the bizarre Jumble Hopper awaits. Your character leaps around incessantly and all you can do is take a rough aim and temper the trajectory. Very weird, very Japanese. Hyper@ctive challenge: get stuck in a barn.
May appear dull at a glance, but awesome in scope.
The effects are good, but the music is best turned off.
This game will last as long as the machine!
Don’t underestimate Pilotwings 64, it is a seriously good game.