Wingnuts: Da Planes! Da Planes!
By Villainous Fats
After playing Freeverse Software’s Wingnuts, I have to first commend the game for teaching me an invaluable lesson – to never trust anyone that uses the title of “Baron”. They are most likely insane and plotting to take over the world. Just as Danger Mouse had his Baron Silas Greenback, a coked-up Robin Williams had his Baron Munchausen and you, as a Wingnut pilot, have Baron von Schtopwatch to contend with at he attempts to rule the world with his army of various attack planes. (This writer would have suggested the villain’s name be changed to Baron von Geschtopwatch – but that’s why I’m not making games and instead battling out various sundry lawsuits.)
If you meet a Baron, know that you are standing toe to toe with one of the most evil people on the planet Earth.
Wingnuts Time Travels Back to 1982
Wingnuts borrows much of its source material and game play design from the classic 1982 Konami/Centuri arcade shooter, Time Pilot. The Baron, abusing the use of time travel, has escorted his personal air force into the past in order to conquer the world. Expanding upon the general idea of Time Pilots, Wingnuts has you fighting through 30 levels of aerial mayhem as you combat the Baron’s forces from the year 1909 through 2010. Along the way you’ll encounter a variety of planes, helicopters, boats, blimps and cannons that attempt to end your excursion through time.
The game play consists of an overhead view of your surroundings as you pilot your plane around a roughly 4x4 sized battle area – think Time Pilot or Asteroids if the screen was capable of scrolling. Each level begins with a number of enemy plane formations, ground based attack stations, floating air mines, parachute power ups, and about 3 seconds tranquility before the screen fills with anti-aircraft shells.
And that is what makes up the core mechanics Wingnuts attempts to accomplish – a frantic throwback to that quarter eating, twitch style gaming. The graphics, although simple when compared to some of the bigger budget titles, are crisp, colorful and present a definite artistic style. Furthermore, the level of detail that went into creating and researching the various plane models from various the various eras the game covers is quite impressive. The community of military history buffs will be happy to know that not many aircraft seemed to miss the cut – the game features Macci MC 202’s, Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIC’s, McDonnell F-101 A Voodoo’s, Boeing B-526 Stratofortress’s and countless others. This extensive modeling of the various planes demonstrates the attention to certain details of the game that make Wingnuts more than a generic budget game – the game might not be perfect, but it has heart.
Attention to Details
Complimenting the action of the game and the attention to detail regarding the various planes of the 20th century, Wingnuts provides an exception musical score that keeps the adrenaline pumping. The music stands out as one of the high points of the game and fits perfectly with the style of gameplay. The music never distracts from the game yet the uplifting war-time anthems and Latin-infused techno beats keep the player on edge. The soundtracks are well composed and seem to use a layering approach which does a nice job of masking the fact that you’ll probably hear the same track looped 10-15 times before reaching the next point in the game where the music changes. A few extra tracks would have been welcome since it tends to take a while to progress to the next song but what you are offered does its job.
One of the more disappointing aspects of Wingnuts is the lack of interesting AI and the lack of variety in the levels which becomes more evident as you progress further into the game. Enemy planes simply fly in their formations, fly in a loop pattern when attacked and shoot directly at your plane at a timed interval. It’s hard to fault the designers too much since this is, essentially, a budget title from a small developer, but the more you play the game the more you’ll probably wish that the multitude of plane models in the game had some more maneuvers and different firepower at their disposal. The game does throw some new things at you as you progress – all planes start firing homing missiles, new air mines start moving in different patters, land based ships and guns start appearing – but these add little to the experience of the game rather than just filling the screen with more bullets and mayhem.
The enemies fly in nice little formations, which can make them easy to pick off. The explosions look nice! The first of many bosses.
The main problem with the game isn’t obvious at first and, to the Freeverse Software’s credit – it doesn’t come from a lack of effort or programming talent. The fault comes from the main concept of the game and trying to do too much with the concept when it wasn’t necessary. Wingnuts is an obvious throwback to arcade shooters but it seems to lose a little something on its time traveling journey to the future. The levels are large and the amount of enemies the game throws at you is impressive-even daunting at times, but the pace of the game slows down once you start clearing enemies off the level. Many times you are left hunting down one rouge pilot on an empty playing field in order to trigger the level boss’s arrival. The dead time on the earlier levels is noticeable and also adding a save feature seems a little off in a game that seems to strive to recreate arcade action.
But don't take our word for it! Go on and grab the demo here!