Technology has come a pretty long way in the last few decades. Inventions that were the core of sci-fi and spy movies have now sprouted up in the real world, some of which even becoming commonplace. One of those technologies are quad-copters/drones; small, versatile remote-controlled helicopters with HD cameras attached to them that are able to fly fairly long distances and give the controller a wide-eye, high-vantage viewpoint of the area. These are one of the many ‘new-age’ technologies that are available to the public, and all it takes is a quick search on YouTube to gain access to thousands of different videos that show off some of the amazing shots that have been captured with these awesome contraptions.
As great as they are, quad-copters are not very cheap. If you want it, you’re going to have to pay a pretty penny in order to have one of your own. So then, ever felt like trying one out but can’t? Well, thanks to TACS Games, now you can get a similar experience on your Wii U.
Quadcopter Pilot Challenge puts you behind the controls of your very own virtual R/C quad-copter with the Wii U Gamepad acting as a remote control/video display. The game uses both the TV screen and the Gamepad screen in conjunction with each other on a constant basis. The TV-screen gives you a full 3D view of the quad-copter and the surrounding area, while the Gamepad’s screen displays the video feed coming from the camera, giving you a first-person view of the action.
While this is a great way to simulate what actual quad-copter pilots see, the Gamepad view can be a bit disorienting. This is due to the highly sensitive controls of the quad-copter itself. Every little movement you make with one of the analogue sticks is immediately registered, so the slightest nudge will tilt your copter in that direction. This high-sensitivity takes some getting used to, as you will have to gently pivot the sticks in order to get a smooth fluid motion with the copter. This is more difficult than it sounds seeing that the Gamepad’s sticks have a bit of tight resistance that yanks the controller back to its neutral position immediately after letting go. This is far different than the movements that are made with 3D-platformers and racers, so there is a bit of a learning curve.
Tilting the copter at an extreme angle will cause the Gamepad camera to point at that exact angle, so if you’re relying on that view, I really hope you don’t get motion-sick very easily. While it takes some time to get used to, soon the game really does feel like you’re piloting an actual quad-copter. This is carried over into the physics and the way the copter interacts with the environment. For instance, hitting a wall without a rotor-guard will cause the rotors to break and fall off, thus causing you to crash. Tilting the copter at an extreme angle will cause it to fall back to earth very quickly, also causing you to crash. Moral of the story—just be gentle. Thankfully, the game includes a Free Fly mode which allows you to take control of the copter in a large obstacle course, giving you the perfect ‘at-your-own-pace’ training.
Quadcopter Pilot Challenge gives you one area to fly in that generates different layouts depending on what Challenge you choose to fly. This is done in Flight Academy mode, where you are introduced to a generic trainer. The general idea is to fly through a convoluted set of rings and pop balloons along the way, and end by landing safely in the quickest amount of time possible. Passing each challenge unlocks a new challenge. Once you pass enough, you can unlock the ability to fly at night, which presents a new set of more difficult challenges. The more challenges you complete, the higher your rank increases, thus awarding you with a higher-level license.
As far as the other factors go, there isn’t much to say. Graphics wise the game is rather plain; not ugly but not ‘good-looking’ either. The menu GUI looks like it was put together in a day and the in-game graphics are rather simplistic. If you’re a graphics-junkie, then you may find it a bit off-putting, but it can’t really be considered to be a legitimate eyesore, either. The soundtrack is also rather generic. It isn’t anything that will get stuck in your head, but some might find it annoying. For some odd reason, it reminded me of some of the music I’ve heard in various truck simulators. Either way, it can be disabled should you so desire.
QuadCopter Pilot Challenge surely isn’t a full-suite R/C flight simulator, but neither does it really come off as a poor attempt. While full-fledged R/C simulators like the RealFlight series put it to shame in terms of features and overall quality, I can honestly say that this was still a pretty decent try. The combined use of the TV and Gamepad screens in an indie game is generally rare, so seeing someone actually make use of the feature is definitely great to see. TACS Games could have simply left the screen blank or just have generic information displayed on it, but having the GamePad used as the video-feed camera that’s strapped to the copter is certainly a really great feature. While it was pretty jarring at first, once I got used to the controls, it became pretty cool. The graphics and soundtrack are a bit of a let-down, but not glaringly bad.
Overall Quadcopter Pilot Challenge certainly isn’t for everyone, but if you’re looking for a way to at least get a decent feel for how operating one would be like, then the game should do you some justice.