Review: A gripping tale about what would happen if birds had wings and could fly. Wait a sec...
The Wii's control scheme lends itself well to many different game genres. Among those are flight simulators. With that in mind it comes as no surprise that flight-based games are being released for the new system. Since the controls are so versatile it is always interesting to see how different developers choose to use the Wii-emote. Likewise with Wing Island being one of the first flight games to hit the Wii, there is definitely some interest as to how well the game performs.
Wing Island tells the lighthearted tale of how Junior, a talking sparrow who works as a wing-for-hire, takes over his grandfather's business. In doing so he gains respect from the local islands while his flustered partner Puffin constantly gives him new tasks. Why exactly a sparrow would need an airplane is beyond me, but hey this isn't Shakespeare. Either way, the plot is relatively unnecessary and the cut scenes don't offer an exciting read. Luckily for those itching to get into the action, these cut scenes are fairly short.
Unfortunately the game's ?action? isn't all that exciting. Players will find roughly 20 missions consisting of menial chores such as delivering boxes, finding lost cattle, racing around the island, and crop dusting. Some missions are a little more fun than others. Box delivery consists of little more than flying over a marker, pressing the B button, and praying that the parcel lands within the bounds of the marker.
One positive aspect of the game is that the controls work well and are fairly intuitive. Players control the game by pointing the remote at the screen. Twisting the remote left or right will cause the plane to turn, while pointing it up or down will cause it to fly in that respective direction. Pressing up or down on the D-pad will cause the plane to accelerate or decelerate. Players can boost or use breaks by respectively thrusting the remote toward the screen or by pulling it away. The breaking and boosting doesn't always work. The Wii-mote correctly registering pushing and pulling has been one of the Wii's greatest problems, so this isn't much of a surprise. Players can also perform more complex air maneuvers such as the quick-turn by holding the A and B buttons while flicking the controller in a given direction.
Some missions force players to use a single plane, while others make players use five planes flying in formation. The trouble with formation flying is that changing formations can be complicated. There are three different formations- v-wing, straight-line, and cross. V-wing formation has average speed and turning radius, straight-line has fast speed but horrible turning, and cross turns very quickly, but has very little speed. The formations are a little tricky to switch between. Players can either press the A button multiple times to switch between each formation, or they can hold the A button and wave the Wii-mote in a given direction for each formation. This isn't very intuitive at first, but with a little time in the game's decent training mode, any player can switch formations easily.
For those expecting exciting dogfights, prepare to be disappointed. As this is an E rated game, there are no guns. The closest Wing Island ever gets to dog fighting is the balloon mini-game in which players must chase each other in an attempt to pop balloons attached to the back of each other's planes. It's about as fun as playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, only without the blindfold or the tail. That is to say the concept isn't exciting and the execution is a little frustrating.
There is a bit of customization in the game. Players can buy new aircraft or upgrade the ships at their disposal. Upgrades can be made to the speed, turning, or weight of the craft. These are purchased with money that is earned in the game's missions. Unfortunately money is only acquired from missions that are performed well. Take too long to find all the cows, or sustain too much damage while fighting forest fires and you can kiss your precious award money goodbye.
While the game features a multiplayer mode it is unfortunately limited to only two players at a time. The multiplayer games consist of the aforementioned balloon-pop and two different races. One race forces players to fly through a series of checkpoints while the other makes players pop balloons to see who can get the most in the time limit. Neither of these is very fun. Oddly enough, players can either use two remotes, or one player can use a remote while the other uses the attached nunchuck. The latter setup works surprisingly well, but it doesn't really add much to the fun factor.
Visually the game is dull. It looks like an early PS2 game with its bland textures and uninspired levels. Sure there are a handful of different islands, but none of them really pop visually. It's understandable that the Wii doesn't have the same graphical power as the PS3 or the Xbox 360, but there are plenty of early GameCube games that look better than Wing Island. At least the game runs in 480p and has a widescreen feature, so you can fully experience the blandness on your nice 480p or up TV.
The audio isn't much better than the graphics. The music is lulling yet forgettable, and the sound effects sound good enough to the point where they aren't noticeable. There is no voice acting save the ?peep peep? noises that the characters make in certain cut scenes. It sounds a lot like Banjo-Kazooie, only more annoying.