Most of us are used to decent quality Wii games ruined by a developer's compulsion to include over the top Wii-mote controls that make for great adverts, but seriously hamper the pleasure of playing the game. It is a sad reality that all too often a more traditional analogue stick and button combination would do a far better job than showy Wii controls.
Which makes it rather surprising that Wing Island suffers in many ways from a complete reversal of the regular Wii game failing. The control scheme is initially fantastic and enchanting, while the game hooked onto those controls is often an underwhelming disappointment.
When you first tuck into the tutorial, it is easy to convince yourself you are about to embark on a magical journey through a game that has 'classic Nintendo' written all over it. The presentation and style of Wing Island at the front end is impeccable, and its considered cuteness creates the illusion that you're minutes away from a real hit of escapism.
Holding the remote like a toy plane in your hand, you simply fly it through the air. Tilt down the tip of the remote and your on-screen plane does the same. Roll it to the side and you've already got the picture. It works fantastically, and when you first dare to roll your remote through 360 degrees in your palm and the plane does a neat little barrel roll, you feel like a kid who has actually learned to fly.
'... f Hudson were trying to make the aeronautical Excite Truck, unfortunately they've only managed to create Dull Plane.'
Immediately you can see you'll be tangling your wrist around your forearm at some crucial point in the game, but it doesn't matter as the sensation of such simplistic piloting is a pure delight. There is little you can do wrong. Stalling and crashing out of the sky are distant concerns, and as you begin to imagine what must lie in store for this simple mechanic you brace yourself for another Wii stalwart.
Various jerks with your hand trigger certain special moves such as a quick turn, or send commands to your allies in the sky, while the general delicacy and responsiveness of control hints at the cliché of 'easy to learn but hard to master'.
Yet if Hudson were trying to make the aeronautical Excite Truck, unfortunately they've only managed to create Dull Plane. The application of the controls to the gameplay is horrendous, and though flying your aircraft is always a synch, the missions themselves are dull and repetitive.
There are three game types, with the Story Mode making the core of the experience, which is joined by Competition Mode, offering half-decent one and two-player challenges, and the near redundant Free Mode, which allows you to aimlessly explore without the distraction of missions.
Most of your time in the air is spent with four wingmen, who obediently follow your every move, waiting to be ordered into one of three simple formations. As you set off into the picturesque skies above the game's various tropical islands, you are charged with different missions that see you dropping off packages, hunting for hidden items and racing through the air to collect trails of balloons.
Unfortunately, whether extinguishing fires or dropping bombs, almost all of these boil down to flying to a point and pressing the B button, which, at the gentle pace of Wing Island, becomes monotonous very quickly. High above the small islands that make the game's levels, there is very little sense of travelling anywhere. Add to this the fact that you'll often have to cruise in a straight line for painful distances, and you have a recipe for tears of boredom.
A rudimentary plane purchasing and upgrade system attempts to bolster the depth of the game, but offers little more than a steady flow of incrementally improved aircraft, that are so similar their differences are barely noticeable.
The final layer of sickly icing on this disappointing cake is the very simplicity of control that at first seemed so irresistible. As your wingmen follow in your wake, they lazily clip buildings and rocky outcrops, rebounding of cliff faces or dragging their wings on the floor until they run out of health, or until you pull away enough to give them space to fly without collision.
Their complete lack of AI, coupled with the ludicrous ease of piloting your own plane not only takes the challenge from Wing Island, but almost removes the sense you are playing a game, leaving it feeling something like a glorified tech demo.
It is somewhat unfair to be completely unkind to Wing Island, as it continually tempts you to fall in love with it. Like an ex-girlfriend who doesn't seem quite as bad as you remember, you almost want to forgive it of any failings.
It might not compete with PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 graphics, but in its own quaint way it is pretty and stylish, and it oozes enough character to feel as if it could be a Nintendo developed product. The soundtrack, though repetitive after some time, is a perfect compliment to the atmosphere of the rest of the game, and in general the presentation makes you feel like you are playing something that could have been exceptional. Even the mind-numbing gameplay holds some kind of hold over you, and often you'll find yourself picking up the remote moments after you've flung it down, having vowed never to play again.
Essentially Wing Island has so much charm and potential you can't help but want it to be great, but it will only hold any true appeal to youngsters, or the rare breed of gamer who doesn't want any real challenge. As a template for something to come Wing Island is brilliant, but sadly it just feels too much like a budget release.
VideoGamer.com Score5 Score out of 10
- Charming character
- Accessible controls
- Dull and repetitive
- Simply too effortless