Video Game Review – WING ISLAND – Nintendo Wii

     May 5, 2007

Reviewed by Paul Stuart

Once upon a time, there was a pretty darn good game called ‘Pilotwings’ for the SNES. With a realistic physics engine and a slew of unique flying missions, it’s not surprising that many a video game veteran recalls fond memories of this 32-bit aerial classic.

‘Wing Island’ is certainly not ‘Pilotwings.’

Not sure how they did it, but Hudson Soft capably managed to create a flying game for the Wii with non-responsive, motion sensitive controls. Imagine a shopping cart with a busted wheel that no longer spins… then trying to navigate this now 3-wheeled, steel monstrosity down wafer thin aisles. That pretty much sums up the ‘Wing Island’ experience to a tee.

If the controls won’t confound you, the obscure storyline certainly will. You’re a half man, half duck pilot named ‘Junior’ tasked with running your grandfather’s flying company in his absence. Apparently old gramps needed an escape from the daily grind of Cog Island. (For those keeping score at home, yes: anthropomorphic abominations have escapist tendencies.) Turns out Gramps earned his family fortune by completing ridiculous flying missions for Cog Island’s residents. In his stead, Junior will pop balloons, drop nets on cows, bomb coastlines, and deliver boxes in open fields to satiate the island’s demanding client base. It is for these reasons ducks shouldn’t fly airplanes: weird things happen.

One could forgive the freakish storyline if ‘Wing Island’ brought its ‘A’ game to the skies. Unfortunately, however, this title looks, feels, and plays like an E3 demo in its mid stages. The graphics are packing Gamecube quality at best, ripe with poor texturing and up-close, polygonal blackouts. Fly near objects and your entire squadron of planes disappears. Hooray. Even David Copperfield can’t top that.

Controlling your planes is a simultaneous lesson in extreme patience

and frustration. ‘Wing Island’ places a premium on formation flying, a glaring problem since switching formations is both poorly button mapped and non-responsive.

Even if your band of overachieving duck aviators successfully forms a ‘V’ formation, good luck trying to turn them past the blurry rocks just ahead. Evasive options are seemingly limitless: a) wave your WiiMote in frantic left to right fashion, an optimistic longing to complete sharp turns b) jerk the WiiMote up then down ten times strong, longing for a dramatic, last second climb and of course old stalwart c) yank the controller back — over and over again — in a futile attempt to execute a powerful brake stop. The fun truly begins when in an attempt to complete one move, the plane instead executes another. Now we know why Gramps left the biz.

It is this for reason my finishing of ‘Wing Island’s 20 individual missions normally concluded with a resounding middle finger salute to the game’s programmers. The old, “I beat this level despite its moronic control scheme, poor responsiveness, sub-standard graphics, and LSD-inspired plot” is a battle cry that never gets old.

Despite these flaws, however, all is not amiss on ‘Wing Island.’ The game packs a solid and robust 2-player mode, a party game setup where control flaws can thankfully take a back seat to competitive juices. Moreover, there’s a nice weekend rental waiting to happen in giving ‘Wing Island’ a quick aerial whirl. Assuming, of course, that the duck citizens of Cog Island won’t give you nightmares.

SUMMARY: An odd plot, unresponsive control scheme and dated graphics make ‘Wing Island’ a decent rental at best. Simply put, there are better options out there for the Wii.

CONCLUSION: 5 [FREAKISH DUCK PILOTS] OUT OF 10.

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