Up, up, and Away!
A few months ago, I stopped by our Game Revolution office, large, expansive gaming headquarters that it is, and took a long look at the new Nintendo 64 which had just come in. One of the cartridges resting next to the machine was the pretty Pilotwings 64 which I immediately popped into the system and switched on. I sat there for about an hour, flying the little jet copter around the island of "Little States", a land mass whose terrain and scenery roughly resemble that of a disneyland version of the continental United States. Afterwards, I remarked on how much fun I thought the game was, though there really did not seem that there was much else to do besides sightsee and lob air-to-ground missiles into buildings and national monuments. My editor basically was of the opinion that the program was more of a toy and not a really a game, much like the way that a rubber ball by itself is only a toy and not really a challenging game.
In many ways, this same description may be applied to the PC program Flight Unlimited. This is by far the most basic flight simulator available, whose only purpose seems to be the glorification of the act of flight itself. Despite the fact that there are some aerial courses in which there are large rings in the sky to fly through, as well as the general twin challenges of takeoffs and landings, there is not much more than that, game-wise.
The player does have the option of flying over different locations around the world. There are quite a few areas within the United States, including California, South Carolina, upstate New York, and over Minnesota, to name a few. There are two European locations: one in the South of France while the other is in the Rhineland of Germany. The landscape looks terrific! These scenery realms are very detailed and look as though the landscape formations were programmed with the help of some satellite photography. Their only drawback, even in the California scenario, is that all one sees is empty, open land and mountains. There do not appear to be any buildings, bridges, or structures of any kind, not even a small shack or tower next to the starting runway, which does not even appear to be a paved runway at all, but merely a flat dirt strip.
There are five stunt planes to choose from in this game, all having simple, though different, cockpits. These planes are the Sukhoi SU-31, the Extra 300, the Pitts S-2B, the Grob Sailplane, and the Bellanca Decathlon. Each of these planes is radically different from each other in both design and color, which can be easily seen if one decides to fly the planes using the exterior view. They also handle quite differently from one another, especially so if you consider the Grob, which being a sailplane, uses only its wings and currents of air to stay airborne.
The game's basic interface is rather simple. The player is taken to a sort of "ready room" at the edge of the runway. This room is decorated with various items that have representative game choices, from determination of what plane to fly to what location to fly that plane in. This interface, again, is very uncomplicated and rather easy to work with. This quality is unfortunately rare in many flight simulators, and any function that allows one to get started and get into the air quickly is greatly appreciated by many armchair pilots.
On the other hand, the game's simplicity is where its greatest flaw lies. Flight Unlimited is just too basic to be considered anything more than an expensive visual toy. Sure, there are exotic camera angles, flight lessons with both ground school and in-flight instruction, as well as diagrams of fancy aerobatics, but for the most part there is really not much more to do. Had the areas on the terrain map held detailed cityscapes or had the player the option to fly military aircraft missions, this reviewer's verdict might have been different. It seems strange that a program that values aerial mechanics should not value aerial tourism as well. As it stands, Flight Unlimited, though probably entertaining to the flight hobbyist, really does not hold enough excitement for those who are out for a challenging gaming experience.