On a wing and a prayer… actually, maybe just a prayer.

Title: Pilot Sports
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), Switch
Developer: Z-Software
Publisher: Wild River
Release Date: Out now
Price: £25/$35 (across all platforms)
TL;DR: A relic of a bygone era that doesn’t possess the same draw of its ilk
Family Focus?: Click here for more information

Pilot Sports is a bit of an odd duck, and not in a good way, in the sense that it’s offering up a handful of mismatched mini-games that all smack of being the kind of thing to keep the kids busy over a rainy weekend stuck at home. Unfortunately, Pilot Sports doesn’t quite manage to offer the type of assorted mini-games that you could consider as being the type to pull you and a group of friends in. Instead, the game feels like it was designed to be played about ten years ago, and it suffers for that decision.

The game’s premise is a simple one, pitting up to four players against one another in a series of mini-games to prove who’s the best pilot. You can play the game by yourself if you prefer, but it’s most definitely designed for at least a two player bout. So, just what’s on offer in this mixed bag of competition? Well, not that much, if I’m being blunt. And that’s the problem. Because for a party game to have some staying power, variety is crucial. Look at any installment of Mario Party and you can see why the series has done so well; it brings together a famous cast but more importantly, it offers variety.

Now, I realise that comparing the first effort from a developer that’s mostly known for sport and vehicle simulators, to a series that set a benchmark for party games, is a bit rough. But there’s so much that Z-Software could’ve done with this game. Instead, the majority of the game is spent flying through rings in an aeroplane or on a hang-glider as quickly as you can. And when it’s not that, it’s flying through the same rings as you try to collect as many gems as you can before a timer reaches zero. The problem with these types of mini-games is that it’s dependent on how long a player takes. And because of that, so many of the mini-games quickly fall flat as you spend a minute or so flying around a course before moving on.

That’s not to say the game fires blanks with all its attempts. There’s a handful in there that do manage to get close to that frenzied state of mini-game hell. The sections that challenge you to stay airborne for as long as possible are easily the most fun moments of the game, but there are similar games that come close to this. Mini-games that have you race against each other using jetpacks as you jump from one platform to another, juggling fuel and speed, is one of them. It’s no coincidence that the mini-games that are the most fun in Pilot Sports are the ones that move away from the vanilla timed challenges. Instead, they work to put the focus on the game itself, and introduce some illusion of strategy or specific timings that will make one player do better than the other. It’s just a shame that when you look at Pilot Sports, the game’s enjoyment boils down to just two mini-games.

Though, I should mention that the reason the more enjoyable parts of Pilot Sports are fun because they play into the game’s lackluster controls. And look, crap controls are brilliant when you’re seeing who can stay in the air for the longest but even then the game makes everything feel… floaty, so that whether you’re in a vehicle or controlling your pilot, you’re never really in control. You get caught out in two ways with this, either you just kind of hang there, waiting to fall to the ground before becoming irritated and quitting out of the game. And if it’s not that, then your vehicle feels like the embodiment of sensitivity, bounding left or right with the slightest of touches. Sometimes it adds just enough chaos to make a game even more fun, and sometimes the dodgy controls are just dodgy controls.

But hey, let’s face it. Pilot Sports most likely wasn’t designed with me – a 28-year-old cynical bastard – in mind. And maybe the design of the game will be enough to hold someone’s attention. Because the game does pop with colour, so much so that the game looks like its been developed from the idyllic, acid-soaked visions of a developer. Then there’s the music; the chirpy jingles that play over and over, sounding as if they were ripped straight from an upbeat tutorial video.  And then, of course, there are the nonsensical characters. A group of people so mismatched that rather worryingly, I think that they’re not all pilots. Maybe it’s enough to keep a child’s attention. Or maybe the game was designed with the general idea that we have of what children should like, because it’s what we had to put up with at that age.

Pilot Sports, even as a premise, isn’t a strong contender. As a collection of mini-games, it misses the mark that would get kids excited to play – and even more so for a bunch of pissed off adults. Everything else about a party game is only as strong as the games that come with the game, and Pilot Sports can only really point to one or two that can be genuinely described as fun. Everything else feels horribly generic. Pilot Sports is very much a game that belongs in the early 2000s. It’s great to see a developer try something new, but Pilot Sports isn’t something that’s going to entertain.

The Good

  • The game where you stay in the air for as long as possible is fun

The Bad

  • The majority of mini-games are simply dull
  • And much of this is because the mini-games take too long to finish
  • Flimsy controls can be fun but they’re still bad

Family Focus

Rated Pegi: 3 and ESRB: “E” for Everybody

You know what, if your kids are easily entertained and you don’t mind sitting through some generic gameplay, then Pilot Sports could be a nice introduction for getting them used to competition games. And you’re bound to have at least one funny moment.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy of the game provided by PR for the purpose of this review.