Wings is one of the first, if not the first, flight sim games in development for the GBA. Players and play as either an Allied or Axis pilot in World War I, flying around in 3D dogfights and strafing the enemy in traditional top down 2D fashion. While the game isn’t finished yet it shows quite a bit of promise and is a testament to the quality games we are just starting to see on the GBA.
Wings has two main modes of play, a 3D free flying mode and a 2D top down mode. In the 3D mode, players will actually fly around over a 3D world, which is flat but is nicely detailed considering its on a GBA. The D-pad controls your aircraft, and utilizing it will let you bank, roll, loop, and dive however you want and as you see fit. You can even fly straight down and slam your craft into the earth if your so inclined. You can look over either shoulder or even behind you to get a better feel for what’s going on around you. The A button fires your machine guns, and the B button toggles whether you can see your own plane or not. The plane is fairly well drawn but it does take up quite a bit of viewable space no matter which way you are looking, so it’s nice to see that there is the option to make it disappear. The missions in this mode are almost always dogfighting the enemy planes, although sometimes you are surprised with other missions such as destroying a enemy balloon.
The 2D top down mode plays much like the Super Nintendo classics Desert Strike and Jungle Strike. Left and right on the D-pad turns your craft and up and down angles it slightly to give you a better shot. The B button makes you go faster as long as you hold it down, and the A button fires your guns. In this mode your missions always involve taking out ground targets, ranging from soldiers to AA emplacements to train cars.
Between missions the game presents small bits of stories that really flesh out what it was like to be an aircraft pilot back in WW1. The briefings are also presented in this fashion, and both really help the player get drawn into the game a little more. The game even has cut scenes at certain points, mainly for the game over screens and some of the title animations, but look very well done and add a bit more polish to the game.
Wings does have a few issues, but nothing major to complain about. While in the 3D dogfighting mode it’s hard to distinguish enemy planes from friendly planes at a distance, and since you can damage friendlies it makes it a bit difficult sometimes. Also in the 2D mode it takes a bit getting used to how the plane turns, it seems to always turn more than you tell it to until you finally realize planes wouldn’t stop turning on a dime anyway, but pressing the D-pad in the opposite direction makes it much less of a problem.
Visually the game is a bit above average. The cutscenes, the player’s plane, and the menus are all very well done. However, the other planes in the 3D mode and the ground texture could use a little work. As it stands every 3D level looks the same, and planes can be hard to tell apart as previously stated.
The sound in the game is a hit and miss affair. The main theme and most music throughout the game is well done and adds to the heroism of being a daring pilot. However, the sound effects for the machine guns in the game are bland and uninspired, and since this is the sound effect you will hear the most it will get repetitive really quickly. The aircraft engine noises are all done very well, even changing pitch depending on how fast you are going. Even though you always hear your engine droning, it never becomes annoying.
Control in the game is fairly tight, and after a few seconds the controls become fairly intuitive and easy to play with. Wings makes great use of what buttons the GBA has available, and the player doesn’t have to worry about trying to remember any key combinations or anything of the sort.
Wings does have a few flaws, but it really shines in what it does right. While it won’t appeal to everyone, it definitely deserves to be watched closely up until it’s release. If the above-mentioned issues are ironed out and the game is tweaked and polished a little bit more Cinemaware could have a real winner on their hands.