GrogHeads Reviews Wings! Remastered Edition

Lloyd Sabin, 15 November 2014

Wings! Remastered Edition by Cinemaware

Lloyd takes to the skies and finds…

Humming in the Shower

I talk about my gaming childhood all the time around here – games that I grew up with, that introduced me to the hobby, that left an imprint on my personality, and whose theme songs I still hum in the shower 25 years later. Moreso than Gunship!, F-19 Stealth Fighter, Impossible Mission, Archon or Winter Games, or two dozen other titles from the 1980s and 1990s, memories of Wings! have been with me, branded into my gaming soul, since it was released almost 25 years ago.

The original is one of my favorite games of all time, probably in my personal top five list, because of the game’s perfect World War I atmosphere, generated by a combination of music, art and mood that really placed my impressionable brain in the Great War. Combined with the [albeit] linear campaign, the authentic sounding names in the pilot roster, the unit journal of the 56th Aerosquadron and the goings-on of the unit while off duty, Wings!, while not realistic by any measure other than a human one, grabbed my gaming brain and never let go.

 

Some of the game's intro screens are shown so many times it will drive you insane, like this one.

Some of the game’s intro screens are shown so many times it will drive you insane, like this one.

That's right, you get to take on Gotha bombers!

That’s right, you get to take on Gotha bombers!

Reunited and it Feels so Good…Maybe

Last winter when I found Wings! on Kickstarter, I was elated. I backed it immediately and 10 months later, here it is on my modern rig. I am about 60 missions in to the 230 mission campaign, and I had shot down about 40 German Eindeckers with my first generated pilot. I was promoted to Major with that pilot, and I became the leading ace in the game world, as well as my own unit. I also got shot down as the difficulty progressed, and had to continue the campaign with new pilots, which reflects the games initial ease and progressive difficulty along with the introduction of new German aircraft that are steadily tougher and more difficult to down, along with a more wily AI. The straight forward patrol missions are exactly the same as they were in the original game, with revamped modern graphics, a vibrant color palette and some added audio flourish.

This is Colonel Farrah. You will learn to dislike him.

This is Colonel Farrah. You will learn to dislike him.

I have also taken on enemy balloons, and even a Gotha bomber, which looked great even though the speed of the missions is extremely quick. If the difficulty progression continues and missions last longer, the improved graphics engine should really shine. There are also bombing run missions from a top-down perspective, and strafing missions from a 2D isometric view, as in the original. Both mission types are fun to play but again rather simple, even though difficulty has been steadily increasing as I progress.

The beginning of each mission begins with an 1910s era title card and narration, if you choose.

The beginning of each mission begins with an 1910s era title card and narration, if you choose.

Some things have been nagging at me, though. The missions are repetitive, and short. The game mechanics are simple…very simple. Wings! has brought me back to where I was 25 years ago, in fits and spurts, and I have caught myself having some fun with the new remastered version, but not as much as I want to.

The flight journal is the main way missions are stitched together coherently in Wings.

The flight journal is the main way missions are stitched together coherently in Wings.

Maybe it’s not really the fault of the game, but the fact that I am now 40 years old and not 15 and that I know Over Flanders Fields in loaded on my hard drive. Wings! is still great in short bursts, but playing for longer than a half hour or so left me looking for something more, something more detailed and maybe even something less cartoony. In 2014, when WWI flight sims like Over Flanders Fields and Rise of Flight offer feature-rich, almost photographic detail, with growing dynamic campaign features – is there room on our rigs for Wings! even if it is remastered? I don’t know.

Air combat is arcadey but fun and looks OK.

Air combat is arcadey but fun and looks OK.

Clearly this new release is intended to be fueled at least partially by the nostalgia of gamers who are 35 years old or older and who have played the original. Even with an agreeable price point on Steam for 15.00, I don’t know how well the game will do because of its simplicity and the number of high quality games now available (both flight sims and others) that now immerse players in multiple theaters of World War I.

The pilot skill assignment screen.

The pilot skill assignment screen.

Disappointed in the Game or in Myself?

I suppose I am a little disappointed in my gaming heart, but my gaming mind tells me I shouldn’t be. The developers never said they were going to expand Wings! in the initial release – they were simply recreating the original game with modern updates. If I keep that in mind, I should not be let down by what is a very simple game. The humanity of Wings! is what made it stick out in my memory for so long and that humanity is still there. That should be enough, shouldn’t it? I suppose I am feeling guilty for wanting more out of an updated game that was such a cornerstone for my hobby, and maybe I expect too much.

 

Strafing missions are also cartoony, but challenging and fun.

Strafing missions are also cartoony, but challenging and fun.

Wings! is still a good time, especially if you are interested in World War I and the aviation of the era. Do not expect a game even in the same universe as Wings Over Flanders Fields or Rise of Flight, though. If you can temper your expectations and define Wings! as a game about flying and fighting over the Western front, instead of a deep dive into the planes, tactics and weapons of the time, the game should be an enjoyable, light experience. If you’ve played the game in its original iteration as I did a quarter of a century prior, that will no doubt add to the enjoyment.

Until your gaming heart starts to wander and attempts to dig a little deeper, of course.

A running tally on pilots of all nations is kept periodically.


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