That it fell to DisneyToon Studios to deliver this aerial accompaniment to Lightning McQueen’s escapades across Pixar’s Cars universe, is perhaps an indication as to where our expectation naturally fell. Though what follows is an admittedly passable experience that has much to enjoy, even if it finds itself looping through repetition all too readily.
Swerving any inclusion of the film’s plot, Disney Planes places you directly in the cockpit of its riotous flying squadron: dreamy cropduster Dusty, the energetic Mexican El Chupacabra, the stalwart British Bulldog, the mischievous Ripslinger, and love interest Ishani are all here, which will surely delight the younger demographic eager to play as their favourite characters.
Regardless of choice, Story Mode sees elderly navy war plane Skipper Riley recount four separate stories for each. Whilst each of these pose their own airborne challenges, it is differentiation in that which the player is tasked that is where we can place most criticism. You begin with spraying Vita-minimulch to encourage crop growth and painting barns, which is later switched up through the introduction of magnets to cart awaiting vehicles around your surrounding environment in Crazy Taxi-inspired jaunts.
There’s variety to initially observe here, but it is how often that such ideas are aimlessly recycled that will soon bring you to regrettable levels of boredom. Enthusiastically crashing through junk clogging a river with a plow is interesting enough the first time, but is soon copied a few levels further where you’re required to smash boards blocking a race course. It’s lazy.
That said, plane handling is commendable. Responsive, fluid, and silky smooth, younger players will be joyously beaming as they boost, loop, and barrel roll their way to victory, even though, presumably for accessibility reasons, each handle exactly the same as one another.
Whilst the Wii U GamePad is largely under utilised, the controller’s gyro sensors can be deployed for those wishing to experiment with motion control, although this sadly detracts from the experience. Whereas a second player can freely join you in the skies as and when they please, seeing the GamePad player use that screen whilst they steer their way through using a Wii Remote on the TV.
Unlockables including in-game achievements, jigsaw pieces, and a Wing Rank progression system serve to expand your play time for those that wish to invest in them, whilst an explorative Free Flight mode is joined by Air Rallies and the admittedly addictive, if not overly elongated, Balloon Pop.
Presentation also proves a distinct miss, with low resolution loading screen imagery and equally uninspired textures hinting toward a game that was seemingly upscaled from Wii rather than the other way around. Worrying, even though the kids won’t care.