I find it funny that companies keep feeling the need to milk their franchises or worlds, with Planes this was Disney’s attempt to keep the Cars universe going without Pixar, Mater and Lightning Mcqueen. But still when Disney brought us Planes they actually didn’t do a bad job extending upon Pixar’s already established universe. It wasn’t the best movie I have seen, but still, it has its merits and told a decent story with a good message. By now we also know the story, a big movie gets released in some way a game will also come out, and this is what has happened with Planes, the question stands, is this a game to be feared? We know the recent history of these games and them suffering under the tie in name but I can honestly say that Planes is actually one of the better tie-ins.
There is a simple reason for why this game is actually okay, and that is that this game doesn’t quite exist in the same world as the movie. Unlike most games, this isn’t a simple retelling of the movies events and instead has its own stories to tell. These stories are simplistic, but they allow us to immerse ourselves in an extended universe. It’s because of this I actually had a somewhat decent time as I explored things I hadn’t seen, I can’t say they strive for brilliance, in fact they don’t but they have their moments.
Planes story mode sees Dusty Crophopper’s mentor 'Skipper' back with the Jolly Wrenches (a naval group of sorts), while he never explains his reasons for being there, he does share a story with fellow Jolly Wrenches Bravo and Echo. Each story he tells regards an event from one of the seven playable character’s lives and you jump in and complete the events of the story, whether these be races or a series of fetch quests.
Each character has four levels dedicated to them and tells an interesting story of helping those in need or simply racing. Of the level types that I came across during this mode I actually found races to be the most appealing. Most levels though are actually about simple fetch quests, destruction, or on some occasions,. smashing objects in order to complete the goal.
Each mission is handled at a different location which is loosely inspired by those we see in the movie, the game allows us to explore around Rusty’s hometown of Propwash Junction, as well as around China, Dubai, India and even to the Himalayas. Each location certainly feels unique and has their own series of landmarks to see and explore, but the thing with these locations is that they all play host to similar forms of missions for each character. At one area your smashing clay pots, at another, old billboards in order to clean up the location (for the reason the game explains, because your British), these are quite familiar and feature the same tired objective, this doesn’t mean that things are bad though, and in this case the repetition is still quite enjoyable even if the game's offerings are very mixed.
As I have said, I love the racing missions, though these are nothing more than racing your opponents through checkpoints and aiming to come first but these are reasonably enjoyable. The challenge here is quite high and aiming to win takes great concentration. Unfortunately, most other missions are very much taxi missions, your goal often requires you to pick up an item and transport it over to a set marker. Similar missions also have you using your plane's guide lights in order to find a specific item or objective, and on most occasions, these then result with you picking said item up and dropping it in a set marker. Other missions also include you collecting people and taking them to where they want to be and trying to get the best possible points, but these are literal taxi missions and the game never shies away from declaring these.
On other occasions, Planes changes to being a shooter of sorts, some missions give you a gun of some description which has to be used to fulfil a set objective. The shooter mechanics when used are really generous, often these require you to paint another character, or send out a flare to rescue someone’s who’s trapped or even power a generator. The best part is that the game never asks for precise controls, you simply have to tap the shoot button at the right moment when your aiming reticule goes green and it will hit your target. This may not sound exciting, but I was honestly surprised to see how much I actually enjoyed these sections, they were actually some of my favourite moments when I was playing through the story and broke up the game from the taxi missions.
Away from the story the game offers a couple of other modes which are mostly enjoyable, much like the racing missions in the story, the ones that exist outside are a whole lot of fun. The racing mode offers you the chance to choose your map, your number of laps and even better play, with another person and this is at its strongest when you have a second player, there are many opportunities to have more fun with another person and they make a nice break from the mostly controllable opponents.
The other modes include Free Flight mode, as well as balloon popping, I will admit balloon popping is only fun in short bursts but I really liked Free Flight mode. Levels may feel generic but it was nice to be set free onto stages I had unlocked during the story, these did have a simplistic goal of trying to collect ten jigsaw pieces, but it was nice to be allowed to be free with no limitations such as time.
When you collect the jigsaw pieces, you unlock a prize, but this does sort of ruin some of the satisfaction of the Free Flight mode. The reward you unlock is a simple picture of the place you just flew around and this is quite annoying, a better reward would have made things more enjoyable and I would have liked just a bit more from this mode.
Still, Planes is actually an okay movie tie in game, it does nothing special, it does little to change the way we see these types of games but for a time it is fun. It is refreshing to see a tie in game that I can enjoy and since Planes is a game that children would likely want, it's nice to see an okay game is here.
Reviewed on Wii U