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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Wing Island
(Hudson for Nintendo Wii)

By Michael Palisano

Hudson's Wing Island for the Wii is a fairly mellow, yet immersive flying title that offers clever play mechanics and interesting missions. Using the Wii-mote to fly your planes adds a new level of immersion to the game. You can also fly multiple planes in different formations, which adds to the challenge. The game is fairly easy to play and enjoyable in single player mode, but Wing Island also supports multiple players and offers both mission modes and mini-games. The visuals are decent and the game looks bright and accessible. Read on and find out why Wing Island isn't the most intense game, but its fairly enjoyable nonetheless.

Even though Wing Island might seem like a kids' title on the surface, with its funny animals and light-hearted tone in each cut-scene, don't be deceived. The game still offers some exciting gameplay and challenging modes of play. The game casts you as a young pilot working for your father's airplane company and lets you fly a variety of missions with your planes. Before you can compete in these missions, however, it's a good idea to play through the tutorial levels so you can familiarize yourself with the controls. Playing the game is surprisingly easy thanks to its intuitive controls. Maneuvering your plane through the skies is a fairly simple task, you tilt the wii-mote to the left or right to turn, thrust it forward for a quick speed boost and swing it with more force to perform barrel rolls. When you are controlling a single plane, these controls work well, but there are other missions where you are in control of a formation of planes that you need to steer. You can change the formation to one of three different configurations using the d-pad. The nunchuck attachment is used to control the camera angles. This approach results in an easy-to-understand control scheme that's intuitive to use during each session. The planes themselves are remarkably smooth and responsive to your moves which makes it easy to perform stunts and wild moves. This is important because it allows you to focus on the gameplay. While many games on the Wii feel like the controller's unique functionality has been tacked on as a gimmick, Wing Island's controls feel quite natural and have been integrated into the game's structure effectively. This sense of movement and control makes for an immersive and visceral flying experience that's easy to understand and use, which makes the game feel smooth and accessible. Unlike many other flying games, you don't have to spend a lot of time worrying about the controls. The game's simple arcade physics also means that you won't have to spend a lot of time worrying about your plane's balance or stalling when you go too fast.

Wing Island's missions aren't as predictable as you'd expect since you need to perform a variety of tasks, you won't be bored. Most of the earlier missions are fairly simple, merely requiring the player to find something on the island and drop or photograph it. The structure of each mission is fairly easy and their simple objectives make the game easy to understand. You can use the onscreen map to locate objects or do it by sight. There are also more challenging missions where you have to intercept oncoming blimps or rescue passengers from a burning ship, which require you to use both speed and finesse to complete but aren't overly difficult to beat. This varied approach to the missions also includes a number of contest missions, where you have to beat an opponent to an objective during a race, which can be quite intense. Players can also compete in a number of mini-games, which include several where you have to pop balloons before the timer runs out or beat your opponent's score. These additional games add to Wing Island's replay value, but the game also lets you compete head-to-head against another player using the split-screen mode. While the game play is fairly decent, there are a few problems that occur. Wing Island's graphics are decent, but the island itself is a bit on the small side, which makes things a bit predictable. There are also some minor issues with the camera system, where the angles themselves make it difficult to see where you are. This is especially true in some of the balloon stages, which makes things more frustrating than they should be. For the most part, the game's missions also tend to be on the easy side and many of them don't last long, averaging two minutes or less. This definitely hurts its longevity, but it's definitely more fun with a friend which makes the game a better value if you want to play along with a friend. As a solo game, it's a bit too superficial. The good news, is that while the game is a bit too short, despite its various modes and mini-games, you'll definitely have at least some fun while you play it.

From a visual standpoint, Wing Island looks decent and does a good job in presenting itself. It runs at a fairly decent framerate and its generally sunny disposition seeps through to the light-hearted cut-scenes. It's music is fairly good as well, which makes the game enjoyable, if somewhat generic at points. Wing Island will probably remind players of other games as well. For those old enough to remember, Nintendo's classic Pilotwings on the SNES and N64 were some of those consoles' defining moments. While Wing Island doesn't quite soar to those heights, it's still a highly enjoyable title that offers plenty of enjoyment. Its definitely aimed at the younger set, and some of the missions will be fairly easy for most players. However, there's a lot more to the game than meets the eye and Wing Island's competitive and versus stages offer more in the way of challenge and intensity for players and the numerous unlockable planes and stages should keep your motivation strong throughout. Wing Island won't win any awards for originality, but it does a good job of utilizing the Wii-Mote with intuitive controls plus some fairly interesting missions and addictive mini-games. It's not the deepest or most challenging game you'll ever play, but Wing Island offers an enjoyable and entertaining experience that should please Wii fans looking for a decent arcade-style flying title. - Michael Palisano


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