Two flight games in a row? And both of them are wildly different from each other? Alright then, how does Pilotwings handle?

In contrast to most, if not all games set in the skies until now, Pilotwings doesn't have you soaring over military bases shooting down other planes but has you floating over a flight training school, learning the basics of flying a biplane, parachuting, controlling jetpacks and more.

You're not trying to down a certain number of foes but to score enough points to get your pilots license and progress to more challenging challenges, putting your flight skills to the test.

It sounds like a nice and simple, relaxing little game.


Or not. Hmmm. You see, for all the controls Pilotwings has, mostly the d-pad and the A button, it is an absolute bugger to get used to the way things handle. If it's not a case of the games speed throwing me off, then perhaps it is the input lag. But input lag is the wrong word because your inputs will be input fine, but two seconds later you'll realise that the inputs you made were far too much and now the challenge run is ruined.

Case in point was this parachute section. Freefall through five rings, open your chute and land on the target. Great. I started my fall and pushed up on the d-pad to point my head down towards the ground. Seemingly doing nothing, I pushed it again, and maybe once more for good measure. My guy then drifted down the screen, missing ring after ring after ring, all because of those inputs catching up at the wrong time.

For a simulation of how parachuting is awfully important and precise, Pilotwings perhaps nails it. I don't know, I've not thrown myself out of a plane. But for a game that ought to be fun, well, I'm not seeing it quite yet.

I don't know what I was close to, but it wasn't going to help me get a license. I could have tried any challenge again until I declared that that was as good as I was going to get and move on to the next one - you need a certain number of points from a number of challenges, so you can suck at one and do well enough in another two to progress - but I just wasn't invested in the game to do such a thing.

Fun Times

Pilotwings doesn't just offer players a friendly (as in non-violent) game to fly in, though - it gives players a world in which to fly.

Sure, it's not a very populated world, but Pilotwings' use of Mode 7 graphics was a statement of how they could be used to give a sense of the third dimension in a SNES game. As a launch title in the US and Europe, that was a pretty big statement to make, too, even if it was up against F-Zero, another top game for touting Mode 7.

Final Word

I can't get the feel of each control method, as simple as the control schemes are. The delay on the inputs and the precision needed to get top marks just gives me the impression of having to do challenges again and again and again, and frankly, that's too much, especially for what amounts to the first few missions of a game.

Pilotwings looks welcoming, it looks great even, but it's slow and heavy and far more challenging that it appears. It's worth playing, but I couldn't tell you for how long. Maybe I'm missing out on some cool aircraft. I'll probably never know unless I looked online.

How many of you will get your pilots license?

Fun Facts

Sequels to Pilotwings were also North American launch titles on the Nintendo 64 and Nintendo 3DS.

Pilotwings, developed by Nintendo EAD, first released in 1990.
Version played: SNES, 1991, via emulation.