Earn your wings in style!
Having only recently finished playing M.A.C.H, I had a real lust for flying! So you can imagine my elation at being sent a game called Pilot Academy and my absolute joy at the knowledge it had been developed by the same people as M.A.C.H, Kuju!
There are not that many flight sims available for the PSP, in fact I can only think of about 4, so Kuju seemed to have found a nice gap in the market. But where the others are all about the fast paced shooting, Pilot Academy takes a step back and tries to present a more pure flying experience. That’s not to say there is no fast paced shooting, but it is not what the game is about at it’s heart.
On start up Pilot Academy presents you with a few options. Choosing single player takes you to 3 more options Tutorial, Missions and Challenge. All of these have a further 2 options, civilian or military. Deciding to start off slowly, I chose to go through the civilian tutorials first. These, with the help of a friendly voice over, teach you the basics of taking off, navigating and landing various civilian aircraft. To start with you only fly a hand full of planes, a single prop, a Lear jet and a 747.
Each lesson has specific criteria you need to achieve to pass and also some that are needed to pass with a distinction. Passing opens the next tutorial, getting a distinction opens up bonuses, such as planes to fly in Free Flight mode.
Once through the basics, I moved on to the military tutorials. This time you are taken through the basics of air to air combat and air to ground combat, finishing off with a fun dog fight with a Mig.
After the tutorials it was on to the missions. Again there are both civilian and military flavours to these. The missions are varied, from giving tourists a thrilling sightseeing tour of the islands, putting out fires to taking out German tri planes in you World War I bi plane or destroying ships in a modern jet fighter.
As I have come to expect from Kuju, the graphics though out are really nice. The islands look interesting, although sparsely populated with buildings at times. All of the planes look like their real life counterparts and are well animated.
Each plane handles differently, so a jumbo can’t handle the high g turns you can get out of an F15, where as a Spitfire will not go as fast as a Lear jet. This gives the game a nice realistic feel, although it can feel a little slow at times. The controls are simple. The analogue nub controls the planes movement, with the help of the shoulder buttons for the rudder. The rest of the buttons control the speed, weapons and landing gears / flaps. As ever the PSP lets its self down with the use of the analogue nub. It is twitchy and can make the planes really hard to handle. This is not the fault of the developers, but just my normal complaint about the PSP!
Multiplayer is catered for pretty well, with 3 modes available, the most entertaining being the Dogfight!
Pilot Academy has some things going for it, good visuals, nice flight physics and some interesting missions. The problem is it is let down in many places. One there is not enough of it, there are not enough missions or challenges. There is also a distinct lack of single player dog fighting, which I felt was missing a trick! It won’t take you long to get through all of the missions and challenges and to be honest, fun as it is in parts, you won’t feel like playing through it again.
The Bad: No dog fight mode, not many missions, analogue controler lets it down.