I have grave concerns about the future of the Nintendo Wii. I absolutely love it, thus far, but there is a distinct lack of quality games available at this point. Game developers still seem to be so in love with the very idea of what can be simulated using the wiimote that they fail to think about their product beyond a very superficial level.
As an example, look at Hudson’s latest release, Wing Island. The entire game plays out as though someone at Hudson thought about the Wii and said “flying! Flying would be so cool on that thing, the wiimote is like the control stick in an airplane.” At that point, they put together a very rudimentary game with an airplane in it, played it for about 90 seconds, and then stopped. Mission accomplished, the wiimote can be used like the control stick on an airplane. The game was then released, without further tweaking.
On one level, they’re absolutely right, the wiimote can be used as a control stick, and it is, for about 90 seconds, pretty neat. After that, a gamer looks for a little more depth than what Wing Island has to offer.
The game is organized in a simplistic fashion. The player is Junior, a young pilot. He has a little company he runs with the help of Puffin, his mechanic. Junior goes around various islands, performing what he likes to call “missions.” These range from popping balloons to photographing trees to putting out fires. By completing the missions within the time period allotted (faster is better) and without mistakes the player earns money which can be used to purchase new planes or upgrade and repair old ones.
The major problem with the game is that the missions that Junior goes on simply aren’t that interesting and have no depth whatsoever. Missions tend to give the player three minutes to complete the task, and virtually every task only involves going to the right location and pressing the B button. Need to capture cows? Press B near a cow. Need to put out a fire? Press B to release retardant over the fire. Need to destroy rocks? Press B to release your bombs. Some missions, such as the incredibly annoying (and repeatedly appearing) balloon-popping race, don’t require you to press any buttons at all, just fly around trying to hit tiny objects with your plane. Others, such as photographing trees, are nearly impossible given the size of the level and the fact that there are only three minutes to find and photograph the three trees. Whoever thought it was a good idea to make the game player photograph a specific green tree on islands full of green trees was grossly mistaken.
Sadly, controlling the planes proves to be less than fun as well. They handle, even after upgrading them, incredibly poorly. They are slow, make huge turns, and are unwieldy. What’s worse is that many missions require you to fly with numerous wingmen, and their planes respond to your movements. While it is possible to change formations, that doesn’t make it any easier to fit through tight places. Were having wingmen not essential for the completion of some missions I’d recommend forcing them to crash into cliffs at the start of every level.
When you combine planes that handle poorly with the fact that you have a scant three minutes to perform missions, it makes for an even worse mix. You’ll find yourself playing levels over and over and over again, doing the exact same thing you did the last 12 times you played, and eventually, who knows why, you’ll be able to complete the mission.
Visually, the game looks merely adequate. The skies are a nice blue, with some puffy clouds, and the water is a nice blue, with some chop, and the islands are… islandy. The details are not particularly sharp, and don’t go anywhere near mitigating the bad feelings the game play of Wing Island engenders.
On the upside, for whatever reason, there’s a definite sense of accomplishment when an inane mission is completed. Getting that last stinking balloon popped just under the wire actually makes the you feel good. That may mostly be relief at not having to do the mission all over again for the want of one rotten balloon.
In the end, the basic problem with Wing Island is this: the controlling of planes is too difficult and the missions are just plain silly. It’s as though the game was intended for a non-gaming audience, so that people can play with a wiimote, but having three minutes per mission belies this notion.
It should be noted that there is a two player mode, with some head-to-head racing, but it is just as silly and mundane and annoying as the regular mode.
Wing Island is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB and contains cartoon violence.