Let’s face it, movie tie-in games have been taking a lot of heat from the gaming community, and rightly so. Most of these limited-budget, quickly-developed cash-ins on popular franchises are picked up by naive shoppers. Little Timmy and Suzie just saw the related movie in theaters over the weekend, are walking through the electronics department with the family, and see that their prized console of choice has a videogame featuring their favorite characters of the moment. They must have it! The purchaser of the group caves and the purchase is made. Unfortunately, the game usually isn’t very good, and the main player of said title looks to anyone else in the household for help with winning the game.
Fear not, loathers of bad movie tie-in games, as Disney Interactive has a pretty good track record of not releasing terrible games. Need some quick proof? Check out the Toy Story 3 videogame and you’ll be relieved to know that the studio takes some pride in its products and the games it releases are actually fun for what they offer. Disney Planes is yet another title in that repertoire that isn’t half bad.
Right from the start you are given a brief tutorial that shows you everything you need to know. The simple motion-based controls have you flying straight away and feeling confident. A couple of button presses control a burst of speed, brakes, and the various mechanics that have you doing things like crop dusting and shooting harmless projectiles. The motion-based gestures to perform stunts do feel slightly sloppy and can get a little frustrating, but luckily they aren’t absolutely necessary.
In a surprising move, the game actually allows you to plug in a Wii Nunchuk and ditch the motion controls altogether. Veterans of flying games will probably want to switch to this mode right away as it feels much tighter and more responsive, especially when faced with timed challenges that require precision for a top score. The aforementioned stunt moves are easily pulled off with a quick press of the directional pad, though one might wonder why this wasn’t just added to the Wii-mote as an alternative to the quick gestures that don’t always work as planned.
Perhaps the best part of the game, more so for the younger gaming audience, is the lower level of difficulty present in the game. Seeing as this is a game based on a family-friendly movie, it’s pretty much expected that any sort of violence or destruction will be non-existent. The entire game wants to make it so that the player is not capable of failure. Running into objects, or even the ground, results in your character playfully bouncing off of it and continuing on. In fact, that’s what makes the motion controls so desirable for kids and other gamers with little to no gaming experience — you point the Wii-mote at the screen and your chosen characters pretty much fly themselves. You are simply guiding them in the right direction.
You are able to play as each of the 10 characters from the movie, so players aren’t stuck as the main character Dusty for too long outside of story mode, if he or she wants someone different. Fittingly, there are 10 themed levels to go with those 10 available characters, and four different modes to keep any player busy for a while. At least two can play simultaneously with the drop-in and drop-out co-op functionality, bypassing the need to exit out of a good run in any particular level.
The visuals and sounds are both pretty average looking, but that can be expected knowing the non-HD limitations of Nintendo’s first generation Wii console. The problem comes when a lot is happening on the screen and you notice some frame-rate issues. It is somewhat inexcusable simply because of the type of game here — moving with speed, maneuvering to complete an objective, or racing against the clock or other aircraft can be cumbersome if a slowdown hinders the action happening on the screen. You almost get the feeling that this version might be gimped as compared to its Wii U counterpart.
If you pick up the game because you or someone you purchased the game for are simply huge fans of the film, the characters are voiced by their movie counterparts. Like the feature film, Dane Cook lends his talent to Dusty, Priyanka Chopra voices Ishani, Anthony Edwards brings Echo to life, and Val Kilmer works his magic with Bravo. There’s plenty of dialog to be heard, and re-heard, so the variety of playable characters is a definite plus.
There is enough game here to satisfy a fan of the film, or at least bring peace of mind that a younger gamer can enjoy themselves and not need too much guidance. With a story mode, free roaming mode, racing, and balloon popping mode (yeah, you read that right), there’s plenty of stuff to do. There are even unlockables to work towards, should you need that sense of accomplishment. There is no online multiplayer component, but adding it would have been completely unnecessary.
Overall, everyone involved with the purchase of the Disney Planes videogame will be satisfied. This isn’t just a movie tie-in cash-grab, this is a worthwhile purchase for the right audience.
Disney Planes is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Cartoon Violence. This game can also be found on Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, and Nintendo DS.