Developer: Bit Planet Games
Publisher: Bit Planet Games
Release Date: Out Now
Platform(s): PlayStation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
The one thing that had really been missing from PlayStation VR’s game catalogue since its launch was a good flight sim. Sure, you can grab brief experiences of it here and there through some of the media apps, but there was nothing on offer where you would have the freedom to fly around whilst fully controlling your own plane.
With the launch of Ultrawings at the end of last year, that all changed. Sure, it might not be the in-depth complicated flying simulation that some virtual reality fans have been itching for, but it’s certainly a very enjoyable title that offers a fun little airborne escapade.
In Ultrawings, you’re a pilot who has just earned their licence (you’ll do that in-game through simple tutorials) and is tasked with completing a variety of jobs across a small selection of luscious islands. Your reward? A whole lot of cash to buy new airports to use as home bases and extra planes to fly around in. It’s very simple as far as the whole concept goes, but it works in the game’s favour – the simplicity compliments the game’s design and ensures it’s always all about the flying.
You can either play Ultrawings with a Dual-Shock controller or two Move controllers, though in honesty I’d only ever recommend playing with the latter. It’s so much more immersive (and fun) using one Move controller to control the plane with the stick, and the other to potch around with all of the buttons and levers (or whatever tool you need to complete each mission).
The only real problem was that it was a bit easy to send your ‘stick hand’ wandering, which would often cause you to lose control of your plane a bit. You’ve got to play it realistically and try to constantly maintain your hand’s position in the vicinity of the stick, which is a little awkward to begin with but starts to come naturally the more you play. Other than that, flying is easy enough – it’s clearly indicated which buttons and levers do what, whilst pressing different face buttons of the Move controllers handle your rudders and other functions.
There are four planes to fly in total, with each varying in their overall style and offering different levels of speed and manoeuvrability. Perhaps it would’ve been nice to have had a handful more to give players something extra to work for, though in fairness the variety on offer at least does enough to make the game feel different depending on what aircraft you’re using.
Besides purchasing new planes, you can also buy new airports to give yourself a new office as well as access to the jobs for that area. Again, there aren’t a lot of them to work towards, though they each offer plenty of different jobs to the player to keep them busy, so it’s not a really too big of a problem.
Whilst flying in the game is a blast, it’s with the jobs that you’re going to have most of your fun. Each of the jobs challenge players to do something different: it might be a case of flying through a selection of rings, shooting at balloons whilst flying, carefully transporting cargo, or even taking pictures of landmarks mid-flight. Each jobs adds something different to the game, and in fairness there’s an absolute ton of them to get through – you certainly won’t run out of things to do in Ultrawings fast, but best of all they’re all fun to complete.
The only real problem comes with the fact that once you’ve completed a few jobs of each variety, not much changes between them. It’s easy to get used to your surroundings, and whilst all of the islands are pretty to look at, simply flying through rings or shooting balloons in different areas of them can grow old fast. They do become more challenging which can add to the appeal and there’s an incentive to work for the high scores, but there’s no denying that you’ll be doing a lot of the same things over and over.
It’s not the end of the world though, because it’s in its simplicity that Ultrawings offers most of its charm. Those who’re looking for an in-depth flight sim that keeps giving you a ton of different locations to fly to and utilises complicated mechanics will feel underwhelmed, but those who want to relax and take part in simply aerial expeditions will enjoy themselves. It never stops being impressive to experience it all in virtual reality too – you’ll feel that little kick in your stomach every time you take off and look below you, whilst you’ll also really feel like you’re actually flying through the skies. It’s a great sensation and one that no other title on PlayStation VR has managed to nail yet.
Ultrawings features a fairly simple aesthetic, but one that works well as far as offering a charming and vibrant world goes. There are four main islands to fly around in total, and each one offers a wide range of different landmarks to check out – my personal favourite had to be the volcano, because, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to fly over a volcano? There’s plenty of other planes flying around you whilst the sea is full of boats you can glide down and check out too, so it’s easy to feel like you’re actually part of this lived-in world.
Like other aspects of the game though, I do wish there was a bit more to see. There’s no denying that each island is big, varied and full of personality, but with just a handful of them to explore you’ll see everything that Ultrawings has to discover quite quickly.
There’s a whole lot to love about Ultrawings’ virtual reality sky-bound adventure and it’s so easy to lose yourself in its simple but immersive gameplay. It’s just a real ‘feel good’ game, whilst the magnificence of taking off in your plane and then feeling like you’re really flying over these exotic little islands never stops being impressive.
There just isn’t enough there to really keep you hooked in for the long-term. Don’t get me wrong, the amount of jobs on offer is impressive and it’s easy to spend hours with the game without running out of things to do, but the variety starts to dwindle by the time you’ve visited each of the game’s locations. It becomes a little tiresome to play the game for hours on end and you’ll find that you’re just doing a lot of the same things over and over again.
Still, it’s a great game to play in short bursts here and there, especially with a good Spotify soundtrack playing in the background (flying with the ‘Top Gun’ theme echoing in your ears feels perfect). Ultrawings is one of those games that’ll keep you coming back for more, even if it’s just for one little go in-between other titles – you might see everything it has to offer quite quickly, but luckily it doesn’t stop it being a heck of a lot of fun to play.