Disney Planes (Wii U) Review – Flying the Friendly Skies

The theatrical release of Disney Planes certainly hasn’t fared well critically, regardless we are here to take a look at the accompanying video game Disney Planes for the Wii U. For those who may not know, the Planes games are exclusive to Nintendo platforms. More often than not movie tie-in games tend disappoint, it’s just a fact in the industry. So, with that in mind let’s find out if the Wii U version is worth the cash or simply an attempt to cash in.

While this review utilizes our standard scoring scale it has been reviewed with the intended, younger audience (and parents) in mind.

The setting for Disney Planes the video game takes place after the events of the movie. In the game there are four modes to choose from: the main story mode, free flight, Air Rallies and a Bubble Pop mode. The story mode is the “main” mode of the game and features various adventures to play through for each of the characters featured. What initially looks to be a nice variety to the challenges lessens as you dig deeper into the game and you realize that some challenges are repeated as you play with the different characters. Challenges can also be pretty short. I’m torn between whether this is by design to keep things simple and match the shorter attention span of the young ones or if the developers simply couldn’t come up with any better ideas.

Air Rallies are Planes’ take on the karting genre with players having to navigate through a number of rings and checkpoints around a set course. Various power ups can be collected and used during each race. The action is pretty hectic but I found that it lacks the depth seen in pioneering games like Mario Kart. Yes, I know that this is not Mario Kart, but it was an observation I wanted to pass.  A lot can be going on on-screen at any one given time too. There’s a relatively slim margin for error in having to fly your plane through rings that may frustrate some, especially those younger gamers who may not have honed their skills yet.

Balloon Pop is pretty self explanatory in what it offers. Players must achieve a target score within a set time limit to earn different medals. Balloons have different score values represented by different colours. Finally, Free Flight is a very casual affair that allows you to freely roam around the game’s various locales. There is little do here beyond collecting 10 puzzle pieces that are hidden around each area but it does let you check out each area in the game.

The controls in Planes are very basic. You can use either the Wii U’s GamePad or a combination of Wii Remote and Nunchuk. Complementing the standard steering controls are different moves such as loops, barrel rolls and reverses that can be pulled off with the use of one of the shoulder buttons. There is also a boost button that you can use, with the bonus that the boost never really runs out. I used the boost button almost all of the time. The default speed at which the planes fly is pretty slow which is accommodating for younger players who may not have as precise control and aiming abilities like a more seasoned player. As it should, boosting makes being precise with the controls more difficult. There isn’t really a health meter per se but rather a speed meter. Crashing into things slows your plane down. Power ups to increase this meter are spread conveniently throughout each level. There is also a pretty decent introductory tutorial at the beginning of the game that features spoken dialogue. This is good for a player that might be old enough to play but who may not yet read well yet.

Planes offers up some multiplayer action with the option of local play for up to two people. The featured drop in/drop out co-op play is the highlight. With the exception of Air Rallies, a second player can jump in and out of the action without affecting the rest of the game. This cooperative approach is great for family play.

Being a Disney game I expected the visuals to pop a little more. Planes is a little light on the environmental textures. What’s going on on-screen certainly isn’t taxing the hardware by any means. The various environments look spacious but the actual playable area is smaller than what the background graphics want you to think. You will find that invisible walls cordon you off.  For the younger gamers it keeps them on track and they don’t get lost; however, I am sure some won’t like how it keeps you from going to far off the beaten path. There is also a significant amount of pop-up of the different objects located around the levels. I doubt that the game’s intended audience will take much issue however.

A pretty cool touch that will go unnoticed by most of the kids playing this game is that Echo and Bravo (voiced by Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards) sport helmet designs based on what Iceman (Kilmer) and Goose (Edwards) wore in their roles in the film Top Gun.  Pretty cool for those “moms & dads” who might want to play with their kids and who may have watched Top Gun in the 80’s.

The sound in Planes is a mix of good and bad. The good? The game features the actual voice actors from the film. Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards and Dane Cook. The bad? Their acting is totally uninspired and nothing like what I expect them to sound like in a feature film production.  As for the rest of the sound, it’s average at best.

When you take the intended audience into consideration Disney Planes is an enjoyable title. The basic nature of the gameplay makes the game quite accessible. The drop in/drop out nature of the co-op play is great for parents who may want to play with their kids and with a relatively good selection of modes and collectibles the game gives even a bit more reasons to continue to play.

The Good


The Bad