Movie tie-in games have terrible reputation of cashing in on their franchises, and Planes: Fire and Rescue isn’t going to change that. I don’t mean to get overly technical, but a Wii U that downloads under 500 MB and costs $40 should be a small cause for alarm. I’m not voting against efficiency, but it’s pretty obvious this title isn’t shooting for Game of the Year: all the missions seem to take place on the same map, character models don’t actually have any animation, and then there are the five lines of record dialogue peppered throughout the game. And the two pieces of music. This game is made for young kids addicted to the Planes franchise; they may have fun with it, but this should have been a cheap eShop purchase instead of coming out at full retail.
There’s not much to understand about this game. Dusty, Blade, and other Fire and Rescue characters to protect Piston Peak Park from fires, meandering cows, and other obnoxious obstacles, each character capable of specific tasks. But actually taking care of the issues is the obnoxious part: whether inaccurately dumping fire retardant or water on trees, picking up cows and herding them, slicing logs in half, or dragging randomly placed roadblocks from one site to another, each task involves a rather elementary minigame. But later missions forced me to jump from character to character, using a plane to drop a rescue signal, then a bulldozer to push rocks out of the way, and using a saw to slice logs in half… It really reminded me of spending time in day care, pushing little toy cars around on carpet-sized play mats. At times the experience felt novel, but not enough to hold my attention.
Unfortunately, Planes: Fire and Rescue doesn’t offer much in terms of depth. Hell, there’s not even any real voice acting; the dispatch plane, Dynamite, provides text-based context for each mission, but generally all you’ll hear are the words, “I’m Dynamite!” at the beginning. Parents with young children, be warned: all I could think about while playing this was the idea of hearing my friends three-year-old son say, “I’m Dynamite! I’m Dynamite! I’m Dynamite!” over and over and over again if I’d let him get within earshot of this game. Fire and Rescue authors about as much replayability as a carpet playmat: kids can win bronze, silver, and gold medals based on mission completion time, but only unlock either other missions or concept art. The roughly 30 missions in the game will only take a skilled player a few days to beat, and high odds are they won’t feel compelled to revisit this one later on.
There were plenty of ways developer Game Machine Studios could have made Planes: Fire and Rescue a more compelling game. Randomly generating mission objectives, creating a story mode to tie between missions, or leveraging story and dialog from the movie could have made the game feel more like a retail release. But this game most deserved hotseat co-op: getting two small kids to play together, cooperating to extinguish forest fires or save park visitors would have been great for kids, and possibly merited a holiday purchase for adults. Instead, I recommend getting those kids some toy cars and a play mat…they’ll probably keep them longer and get more fun from them, too.