Recently, Disney’s animators took to the skies with the release of their latest computer generated feature, Planes. Starring Dane Cook and Teri Hatcher, the film is sure to interest children, but hasn’t done all that well on the critical front. Still, with its narrative set above the world of Cars, and an allure that will make children beg for a trip to popcorn-filled movie theatres, DisneyToon’s latest effort hasn’t suffered from a lack of advertising, and will surely do pretty well at the box office.
Outside of cinemas, Disney’s Planes has taken flight from a merchandising perspective. There are toys, t-shirts, and more, plus the obligatory video game. This time around, however, Disney’s suits made a (seemingly) good decision to target the more family-friendly systems from Nintendo, as opposed to trying to fight for sales on the more adult-oriented Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles. As such, the colourful flight title is now out, exclusively for Wii U, Wii, 3DS and DS. However, for the purpose of this review, we’ll stick with the 3DS version.
Continuing the film’s storyline through an arcade-like, mission-based story mode, Disney’s Planes gives players the opportunity to soar through globally inspired airways as their favourite characters. Made up of approximately fifteen one to five minute-long scenarios, its objectives range from being the first to race through a series of rings to taking out tornadoes with a special weapon and saving tractors from danger. In-between, there are timed trick scenarios, miscellaneous tasks and a trick-based fireworks show. However, though the variety in objectives keeps things from going sour, the mode lacks freshness, as its mechanics remain similar throughout its thirty to sixty minute runtime.
As an adult, I ended up being only casually amused by the above-mentioned content, and had a hard time relating to the bland briefings that accompanied each mission, not to mention the game’s over-acted, repetitive and cheesy voice acting. As a property, this IP simply isn’t for me, but I appreciated the rather solid flight mechanics that the game’s developers took the time to craft. They were never perfect, and went out of whack whenever I’d pull off a trick out of necessity, but controlling each plane’s basic abilities (standard flight, turns and turbo usage) was always easy.
The gist of this licensed effort’s overall design can be summed up with one word, and that is arcade. As you’d expect, Disney’s Planes video game is not a simulation whatsoever. Instead, it’s the balloon popping, target shooting and ring race-filled arcade experience that it should be. That means that, as you’d expect, each completion attempt is both timed and scored, with standard bronze, silver and gold trophies available to be won. Moving quickly won’t always secure a gold finish, but it’s a good tactic to employ as long as you pay attention to your boost meter and avoid overheating. Granted, being able to do so while picking up as many of the stages’ collectibles as you can is certainly the best plan of attack. Of course, that’ll be easier said than done for younger children, who will just be happy to earn enough points to unlock more levels.
Adding extra content onto one of the shortest story modes out there are three secondary game types, which each offer approximately ten to fifteen brief missions.
First up are the challenges, objectives that take the core gameplay dynamic and try to add some flair to them. They succeed occasionally, but there’s only so much that can be done with what’s presented, and playing hide and seek, hitting targets and painting flying planes can only remain entertaining for so long. Of course, given that this is a game for children, it’s also very, very easy, meaning that older gamers who normally try for all of a game’s gold medals will be able to earn these with relative ease.
Flanking the above are standard races and balloon-popping scenarios. Racing in this game is somewhat entertaining, but its lack of challenge and copious amounts of repetition eventually combine to create tedium. However, out of all of the content that this cartridge offered me, racing was always my favourite option. The balloon challenges exist, and they’re OK, I guess, but there’s little fun to be had when you’re simply tasked with flying around boring courses, wherein a certain amount of blue balloons must be popped. Arrows are included to induce trick-like maneuvers and direction changes, but they inject very little entertainment into what is a bland, uninspired and downright forgettable gameplay mode.
Combined, Planes’ three hours’ worth of miscellaneous stages award the player’s profile points based on his or her performances. Said numerical accumulation identifies skill, though collectible badges are also attributed to the system. They’re not alone, though, as there are also badges to be earned for getting every gold trophy in each event type, and for completing other objectives. If you care about that kind of stuff, then you may be driven to replay stages for better scores and trophies, but most folks will move on after just a few hours. Then again, children, who can reply the same game over and over again even if it’s not great, will surely get more replay value out of this one than anyone else will, as a result of being able to overlook its repetition.
For a licensed portable title, the 3DS version of this marketing venture looks pretty good. It’s colourful, has a good amount of detail, and offers a varying amount of vistas, from a wide open ocean and workman-like farmland to the mountains of Napal and the gridlock of New York City. Its 3D is also solid, adding some welcomed depth to a genre that benefits from it. The audio isn’t as good, unfortunately, despite including a half-decent soundtrack. Frankly speaking, the voice acting was annoying, and I ended up turning the volume down quite a bit to compensate.
At $39.99, it’s hard to justify purchasing this interactive take on Disney’s Planes unless you know a tot who happens to love the movie. While the game’s core flight mechanics are quite sound, which is impressive in itself when it comes to licensed titles, the fact that only three hours’ worth of content exists on the cartridge makes it tougher to support than it should have been. Take caution before you soar with Dusty Crophopper and company.
This review is based on the 3DS version of the game, which was provided to us.
Although its core flight mechanics are quite sound, Disney's Planes has its wings clipped by a complete lack of depth, as well as a ton of repetition. At only three hours in length, it's too brief to justify its $39.99 price tag to those who aren't big fans of its theatrical inspiration.