Well tickle me surprised; I did not expect Disney Planes to actually be a good game. I have seen the movie with my son recently, and I walked away with the impression that it was an okay underdog family movie. Definitely not one of Disney’s best efforts, honestly, because they were trying to cash in on the overwhelming success of the Cars franchise with this spinoff. Now, as most cash-in game properties go with Disney these days, they tend to range from below average to horrible. So you can imagine my surprise when I popped in Disney Planes for the Nintendo Wii and found an experience that I think would be worthwhile for the entire family to play.
To start the game off, you are flown into an immediate tutorial stage that gets you acquainted with the controls. You have the ability to use two control scheme setups. You can hold out the Wiimote and use the motion controls to fly rather accurately, but after awhile, this can become quite uncomfortable. The other option is using the Nunchuck, which allow you to control your plane via the analog stick. Surprisingly, the controls are incredibly solid and quite accurate, even in motion control mode. This was one of my biggest concerns going into playing this game; I was expecting loose and unresponsive controls, but instead I found the exact opposite. It’s very easy to fly your plane through narrow places, make tight turns and even perform tricks like a 180 degree spin, loop-de-loop or barrel roll.
The physics, on the other hand, seem to be rather odd, but at the same time, just what I expected. Now, I know for a family game it’s a smart decision to not emulate crashing a plane, but when you just fly around and randomly bump off of a tree, it just irks me. You just simply bump off of objects in this game and temporarily lose you speed. Some objects are actually able to be rammed and destroyed using a speed boost, like kites, tiki statues, and hay stacks.
Aside from the physics, the graphics are a bit on the disappointing side. While the maps are huge and full of nice looking architecture and interesting level designs, up close the textures seem to fall flat. Graphics look very similar to a Dreamcast launch title, with low detail, 2D sprite graphics, and choppy frame rates. Granted, this allows Disney Planes to have a lot on screen, but it comes at a cost with choppy frame rates. In single player mode, the framerate varies depending on the on screen action. If you are doing story mode missions, the game will run at the 30 frames per second mark pretty consistently. Partake in a rally race, though, and the frame rate drops pretty hard with all those planes on screen. During split screen multiplayer, the frame rate gets very choppy, quite similarly to the single player rally race.
Now, Disney Planes the game actually takes place after the events of the movie. You have four different playable modes that offer different experiences. You have the story mode, a rally racing mode, a free flying mode and balloon pop mode. Each mode offers a limited gaming experience, but what’s here is actually pretty engaging and can hold your attention for a good amount of time. Almost every mode offers a solid gaming experience that can be enjoyed either by yourself or with someone via multiplayer. The story mode allows you to play as four planes initially, but as you progress, you can unlock the rest to complete the story mode missions.
There are at least four missions per character, and each of them range from either racing against the clock, racing an opponent or completing a set of tasks. The time and opponent races usually consist of just one lap and can be conquered quite easily, while the task missions typically involve you flying around the map locating items to complete various goals like crop dusting, picking up items and delivering them to a location or shooting paint at various items. Each mission has a series of medals you can collect, ranging from bronze up to platinum, depending on how many points you collect or through other mission objectives. Its not that hard to get either a gold or platinum medal on your first run, as the difficulty is really mild. Completing all the missions shouldn’t take you long, and they’re mildly fun for the brief time each on takes to complete.
Rally race, in my opinion, is where the focus of the game should’ve been. Here, you race against the other planes, alone or with friends, in one of the several locations taken from the movie. You fly around through beacons and can use power up items to try and get ahead in every race. Here, you can alter the amount of laps and AI difficulty if you want to. The racing is pretty much what the movie was about, and I found it odd that it was sidelined to a separate mode. Playing the rally mode with power ups on gives it a more arcade feel to it, with speed boosts, tornado guns, and paint ball guns thrown in the mix to ensure your victory.
The final two modes are the balloon pop and free flight mode. Balloon popping is actually a score attack mode, where you just fly around each map and fly into various colored balloons for a set amount of points. This one is probably the most difficult mode to play, as you are required to play through each map a few times to memorize the location of the higher point scoring balloons. However, after that, you will have no problem getting your platinum medal, and can even challenge friends to see who gets the higher score. The final mode, free flight, is pretty much what it is. You select a plane and just fly around exploring the map. There isn’t much to do in this mode, aside from collecting the ten puzzle pieces scattered throughout. The pieces are not too difficult to find, and upon finding them all in each stage, there is truly nothing left to do.
So, in a nutshell, you have three modes that are actually worth your time, while you have free flight, which really doesn’t offer you any kind of worthwhile experience. Disney Planes replay value is also on the short side, despite the large amount of unlockables and achievements you are given. There’s around fifty achievements that you can earn as you play along, with twenty ranks, extra maps and even unlockable characters in story mode.
It doesn’t take long to go about unlocking everything either. My best guess it probably only takes around eight hours maybe, less to get every achievement, plantinum medal and rank. To be honest, I didn’t really feel like I wasted my time playing, but aside from completing everything, there is nothing left to play. Let’s be honest here, this game is targeting kids. While it is easy for me to accomplish everything in a short span of time, for a child, I can see where this game might be moderately difficult for them. Overall, this is an surprisingly good family game that will entertain the kiddies for hours on end and even give partaking adults a good time as well.
Short Attention Span Summary
Disney Planes is quite the surprisingly good title. My fears of another quick cash in game were quickly washed away by solid controls and a decent amount of content. While the game is definitely targeting the younger demographic, there is nothing in writing that says an adult can’t enjoy it as well. I found Disney Planes to be an enjoyable experience that I’m sure will captivate children (including my own) for probably a near endless amount of time. If your kids loved the movie, then it’s definitely a no-brainer to pick up this game and enjoy it with them. You won’t regret it.