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Pilot Wings 64 Review

Publisher - Nintendo
Developer - Nintendo/Paradigm Simulation
Platform - N64
Type - Flying
Score - 4/10

Pilotwings is an odd synthesis of a flight simulator and an obstacle course. While this is an excellent game, it definitely isn't a game for the impatient or blood thirsty. Never the less, Pilotwings is a success.

The graphics in this game are incredible and beautiful. Too many flight simulators have flat colors and bland settings. Pilotwings on the other hand, has small, but incredibly detailed landscapes. The textures are great and the overall effect, while not always totally realistic (or to scale), is too much fun to watch. While the object of each level is to fly through a certain course, shoot targets, or snap an opportune photo, you'll be compelled to spend a few flights exploring the world around you. Also, Pilotwings gives you multiple views, all of which are useful in the game. Even if you don't like flight sims, you have to rent Pilotwings to see the graphics. You'll see excellent showcases of landscapes at different times of the day, cloud and fog effects, and incredible smoothness, the likes of which that only the N64 can deliver.

Pilotwings' sound is not quite as good as the graphics. That's not to say that the sound is bad, it's just that the graphics are really, really GREAT. The incidentals don't factor much into the game. There's an odd grunt from the pilots, a blowing of the wind, or maybe crash noises, but most of the audio is in the music. The music ranges from mild jazz to easy listening, and even occasionally slips into light funk. While the music isn't top notch compared to what's available in video games, it complements the game perfectly. The music creates the laid back tone that pervades this video game. Most games can be played with the sound turned off and your favorite CD (what- 8 track?) playing in the background. Pilotwings should never be played that way. The soundtrack should never be separated from the game. If you get rid of the music, you're not really experiencing the game.

The controls of Pilotwings change respective to which vehicle you're flying. One really spiffy feature of the game is that it presents you with a diagram of the controller and descriptions of what each button does.

The controls are extremely accurate, but that does not mean that you won't have trouble controlling your flying machine. The challenge of Pilotwings is to learn to fly each device. So while the controls are fantastic, you have to learn how to handle the vehicles in different situations and atmospheric conditions. Of the three main vehicles (hang glider, rocket pack, and gyrocopter), the hang glider is certainly the most temperamental. The gyrocopter on the other hand, seems to be the most stable vehicle, but requires extreme finesse when it comes to perfect landings and tight turns.

Pilotwings is a gem, but it definitely doesn't have the wide appeal of Waverace or Mario 64. Most great Nintendo games have a "I just can't put this down" feeling. While Pilotwings doesn't have that kind of pull, the game does grow on you. Also, it's an extreme departure from popular video games. There is hardly any violence (bad landings?), no blood, no button crushing, and no really heart pounding action. I wouldn't be surprised if playing Pilotwings would lower your blood pressure, avert stress, and prevent heart attacks. This doesn't mean that Pilotwings isn't fun, but it does mean that this isn't a game for the masses. People who normally don't like video games may feel compelled to give this a shot, and even those of us who feel the urge to save the world and shoot everyone in the process can find a good time here.