Disney Planes the movie is due for release in summer 2013 and is best described as a safe extension of the Cars formula. Plucky colourful characters work their way through set scenarios and we all learn something along the way - the principles of Cars remain but it’s all in the sky - it really is that simple. The movie, to be released in the UK at the same time as the game (how is that for marketing!) was originally intended to be a straight to DVD/Blu-ray release but it did so well in the early rounds of focus testing that it got bumped up to a full theatrical release. Whether or not a game was in the works before this happened is unclear but Planes the game has the feel of a rushed movie tie-in, serviceable but ultimately will only appeal to the youngest demographic and even then, not for very long.
The film will likely delight and if the early buzz is anything to go by it will make a pretty penny but sadly the game does not, even when played by the obvious target demographic (we brought in a four year old welsh lad to help us with this one as his dad is one of the few people in Europe who own a Wii U) it can be tricky and extremely repetitive.
The story is a seemingly odd attempt at extending the narratives of the film’s characters but everything is so half-baked it’s very difficult to become interested, let alone invested. Sure it’s a kid’s game and that’s fine but when the kid is skipping everything and doesn’t even care who is talking then you have a problem - keep in mind our review assistant for this one is a youngster who hangs on Chase McCain’s every word in Lego City Undercover. The game is set shortly after the events of the movie and contains four core game modes: the main story mode, bubble pop, air rallies and free flight. Aside from the main story the modes are quite run of the mill, bubble pop surprisingly see’s you flying into bubbles and popping them, free flight is simply free roam and there is a valiant attempt at the kart racing genre with the rallies mode, heck it even has the power-ups and it soon becomes evident that there is a lot of content re-used between characters and modes. At first what might appear to be something new quickly descends into the same boring exercises that came before.
The controls are very simplistic and the arguably overlong tutorial walks you through them all in great detail so there are no excuses even for the youngest of players to struggle when playing what is a very easy game. You have the option of either using the GamePad or a combination of the Wii remote and Nunchuck, both work well and the basic move set is complemented with boost, barrel roll and reverse manoeuvres to add a little variety to proceedings. The speed at which you fly is painfully slow, perfect for young kids but adding to the feeling of boredom for those a little older - even when using the boost button continuously there is no sense of speed and/or danger in any mission, or in any mode, it is also not possible to crash and burn as hitting objects simply results in your plane slowing down.
Graphically a badly up-ressed version of the Wii version, not utilising any of the power of the Wii U, or the control pad, thus adding to the train of thought that this was commissioned when the team realised Planes was the next cars and they needed some games to sell. The animations are fine and when boosting in-flight it looks fine, sadly up close and especially during the cutscenes the lack of any graphical textures leaves everything looking flat and very ‘last gen’.
The audio does the job, it’s all simple and fits the aesthetic of the game nicely, the voice work is actually in part the same actors from the movie, sadly they are all on autopilot (!!) but they do bring an element of authenticity to the experience, it’s just nothing special - the box is ticked.
Overall taking into account the target audience, Disney Planes still feels rushed and lightweight. Easy to control and completely forgiving for the younger player there is so much repetition and lack of excitement that it fails to maintain the interest of even the most youthful player. Graphically poor, which for a Disney release is a big surprise, and lacking in the verve we have come to associate with Disney tie-ins it is tough to recommend Disney Planes. Fans of the movie may beg Daddy for it on release but a note to the dads out there, you won’t want to have a go and be prepared for your kid to get bored of it quite quickly.