Pilotwings 64 from Nintendo / Paradigm Simulation
...we live in fame, or go down in flame...

Rating: graphics 92, sound 87, interface 89, fun factor 94, overall 90

The waiting is over. After years of rumors, cryptic press releases, denials, and delays, the Nintendo 64 is finally here. And with it comes two games : Super Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64. Or, as some people may like to call it, "That Other Of The Two Available Games That You Can Get Because Super Mario 64 Is Sold Out And The Nintendo 64 Didn't Have A Pack-In."

Pilotwings 64 Pilotwings 64 is a plain, simple flight simulator. There are seven different vehicles to master, ranging from a hang glider up to the strange "jumble hopper." The objectives are pretty standard fair for a tame flight sim like this: fly through the rings, shoot the targets, navigate the maze, or hit that perfect three-point landing. Naturally, the difficulty associated with attaining each of these objectives increases the farther along you go. For example, the gyrocopter tests starts off with navigating through three rings, and then landing. By the time you get up to the "pilot class," not only are you dealing with a swerving, difficult course, but also a nasty crosswind.

A list of six pilots is available, with each pilot having his or her own unique handling characteristics with each craft. For example, the two little kids are great with the hang glider, but a bigger, heavier adult is more appropriate for the cannonball stages. It takes a bit of trial and error to figure out which pilot is best for which craft and course.

Pilotwings 64 So how does Pilotwings 64, with all that fancy Nintendo 64 processing power available, look graphics-wise? Impressive, to say the least. Texture-mapped landscapes and objects abound, making the world your pilots fly through a visual treat for the eyes. Paradigm Simulation, Inc. also does simulator work for the military, so it's easy to see where the experience with all those realistic landscapes comes from. There are so many little touches added to the game visually that make a difference: waves crashing on the shore, smoke rising from chimneys, Paradigm logos on flags, among others. The amount of depth put into those graphics is in some instances breathtaking and much appreciated, at least by this gamer. Once you earn a badge in a level, it's fun to just go exploring around whatever island you're flying over. Who knows what you'll find? Although I would have liked a bit more interaction capability with my environment. For instance, when I fire a salvo of missiles at the Sears Tower in Chicago,I expect at least some broken windows! Alas, all we get is some shrapnel and a marginally satisfying explosion.

As far as sound goes, I wouldn't put away that "Top Gun" soundtrack just yet. The sound effects for the vehicles themselves and the environment (waves, automobile traffic, wind, etc.) are good and add to the atmosphere of the game, but the music and the pilots' one-liners quickly grow tiresome. Especially annoying is the music for the cannonball levels. Luckily, there is an option menu that allows you to turn down the volume on the music. The overall sound quality, however, is superb. I hooked my N64 through my VCR and stereo system (with Dolby Surround) and it sounded absolutely awesome! My advice is to just turn off the music and leave the sound effects on.

Pilotwings 64 The control interface in Pilotwings 64 is great. The analog control stick on the N64 controller provides precise, smooth movement for whatever craft you're flying. The other controls are also configured as not to pose too many difficulties when, for example, you're trying to fly a hang glider and snap a picture of the space shuttle as it takes off. The only potential problem is for people with large hands. The center grip and right grip are used for this game, and are close enough together that it could pose some difficulty.

So is it fun? Absolutely! My friend and I have been spending literally hours on this game over the past couple of weeks. We've been trying to improve on our previous scores, exploring around the different islands, trying some stunt flying (ever tried to land on the Space Needle in Seattle with a rocket pack?), and inventing new and gratuitous ways of crashing the various aircraft. Okay, so personally I have a problem with a gyrocopter that has an unlimited supply of missiles and can go 250 kilometers per hour, but hey, it's fun! Go for that perfect score, but don't forget that this may be the only chance you have in life to fly a hang glider through the exhaust flame of an off shore oil rig, crash into a mountainside, and live to tell the tale.

--- Jeff Godemann

Front Door

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