I never had a chance to play the original Wings! but it’s one of many games that pulls on the strings of nostalgia for many-a-geek, and it’s a game that was recently remastered and re-released.
Wings! is really three games in one. One part puts you in the pilot seat of a biplane from the first World War, and has you engaging enemy planes in some old-school dogfights alongside allied pilots. Another is a top-down schmup where you’ll bomb bases and shoot down planes. Another is an isometric schmup where you’ll strafe supply lines. The game switches between the three of these fairly often to keep things varied, but the problem is each game mode doesn’t vary much. The dogfights, the schmup levels, and the strafing runs all start to feel the same after a couple hours.
Of course, the repetition in Wings! isn’t a terrible thing. All three game modes are done very well, and stay fun if you want to sit down and play a quick game for 15 or 30 minutes. It’s just not the kind of game that’ll typically have you in front of the screen for more than an hour at a time.
What keeps you coming back, however, and what I think makes Wings! the classic that it is, is its system for character progression. At the start, you create and name a pilot, and as you beat missions you can level up different skills and gain notoriety among your NPC peers. The game also does a fantastic job of weaving each mission together. Death is also a serious thing, as is shooting down a friendly plane. You can get promoted or demoted, there are lasting consequences for killing a friendly pilot, and when a friendly pilot goes down they’re gone for good.
Each mission typically starts with a briefing from a journal entry, where you as the player will narrate the battle to come. It makes each mission feel noteworthy, and this combined with the rank-based metagame does give a sense of progression and consequence to the game.
Just in terms of the remastered version, the graphics look great, the music is done very well, and the game controls well (at least on the PC version I played).
My recommendation is that Wings! would work extremely well as a mobile game, so if you’re looking for a nice flight sim on the iOS or Android, it’s well worth it. As for the PC version, however, I’d only recommend it to players who were fans of the original, or who are looking for a good coffee break game.
Wings! Remastered Edition is $14.99 on Steam.