Review: Face Pilot: Fly With Your Nintendo DSi Camera! (DSiWare)

Soar spot

The 3DS will introduce a motion sensor to the machine's line-up of inputs, but the humble DSi has already been home to a few motion-detecting titles, with Face Pilot: Fly With Your Nintendo DSi Camera! the latest – and longest-named – of the lot.

You've likely already surmised what to do, but here's a quick description. You play a hangglider pilot who must pop balloons and fly through rings suspended in the air, and in order to move your craft you simply move your head or DSi. It sounds straightforward and, when it works, it's glorious.

You have the option to play with the DSi on a tabletop or in your hands. Placing the machine on a table is seemingly the more accurate way to play: to gain height you lean back and to descend you lean forward, whilst leaning left and right steers in either direction. Once you've had a few practices it feels reliable enough, and the sensation of drifting lazily through the clouds is akin to Wii Sports Resort's relaxing Flyover mode. Clipping balloons and dipping through rings has rarely felt so satisfying.

Holding the DSi in your hands boosts the feeling of flying still further as you turn the console itself to steer in each direction, and when it works well it's fantastic, but it's more difficult to keep within the frame when moving the machine around to snag that final balloon. For the sensation of calm drifting it's hard to beat though, and it's remarkably sensitive at capturing subtle movements: it only takes a few degrees to dip your glider towards a low balloon.

Whichever mode you choose, executing tight turns can be extremely tricky as you frequently leave the camera's field of vision, causing it to stutter. The courses are designed to avoid sharp turns, but the illusion of flight is spoilt when you try to turn swiftly and can't. The strength of the controls lies in their subtlety, and the course design reflects that, with wide-open spaces and large targets the order of the day.

What might appear a simplistic flyover game actually has a great deal more to offer. Each stage has various conditions to meet, from collecting 15 stars to finding hidden medals, and clearing one condition grants you a medal, unlocking content from extra courses to new glider designs. With 15 different stages available and multiple challenges in each, you're getting a lot of content for 500 Points, particularly considering the addition of minigames including dropping balls on targets to score points.

Your money isn't getting you a great demonstration of the DSi's graphical power, it must be said, with some blocky buildings and textures throughout, but the smooth and consistent framerate is more welcome. The bottom screen is used to display the ground beneath the glider, helpful for spotting any hidden medals or items but little else. The music is typical fare: jolly and upbeat but mostly forgettable.

Conclusion

HAL Laboratory is one of Nintendo's most prized internal developers, and with good reason. Although not perfect, the control method used here is innovative and mostly reliable, and once mastered makes the amount of content included in the 500 Point asking price an absolute steal. Regrettably there are no multiplayer functions included, but as a solo flight this is still recommended.