Cinemaware Wings Classic - Emulated original version as Kickstarter backer bonus (Preview)

As you may have noticed, Cinemaware actively gets a lot of coverage here as there are a lot of fans on Indie Retro News from the heyday when Defender of the Crown, It Came From the Desert!, Rocket Ranger and Wings were all massive titles that were hugely different from other games around at the time. Also, the fact that Cinemaware is still active in the community and willing to do remakes  of their classics without losing the feel of the originals gives them even more brownie points. So when they announced their kickstarter for a remastered Wings, we were all over it like a rash.

One of the extras of the kickstarter was a backer bonus of the original Amiga version as an emulated-on-mobile version of which they've kindly let us have a copy for preview. So without haste, I stuck it on my Nexus 7 tablet and prepared to party like it was 1916 and the smell of hun was in the air.

Yes... the longplay part 1 is 4 hours!

So lets just remind ourselves what the original version was like. You start off as a fresh recruit (or 20 minuters to fans of Blackadder) and have to earn your wings first.

You do this by successfully completing a training mission of one of the 3 main game types and then join up at 56th Aerosquadron, Luxeuil France. From then on, the main storyline will run and then there are story scenes interspersed with random rotations of :

Dogfighting - the full 3D first person flying experience

Strafing - isometric/side view where you hit ground targets with your cannons

I really must stop trying to get screenshots AND try to play the game...

Bombing - top down view to drop bombs on specific targets

Anyone who has ever played the original either on classic hardware or emulated will be familiar with all this. The game is a lot fun with plenty of variation on the core types of mission, but as is typical of games from that era, plenty difficult too.

So what about this release? As it's just the standard amiga version packaged up in a self-playing emulator, there's nothing new in the gameplay or graphics so this is all about the implementation into its mobile form and how well it's adapted to touchscreen life, and first impressions are good. There's a nice front end which handles the native mobile side and covers managing the game state when you suspend the device or switch away from the game. When you come back, the game leaves right where you left off without losing progress.

Once inside the emulated game itself, you realise that a lot of the actions were covered by mouse and you start tapping on the screen to select items etc. Unfortunately they have chosen not to emulate mouse position from direct touches, but with an on-screen D-Pad and one fire button, which you move and "click" the mouse with. Not a big deal, but a little odd at first.

When you move into the game proper however, the on-screen D-Pad really lets everything down. I've always said that trying to shoehorn games into control systems they weren't explicitly designed for really sours the experience. Flying the Sopwith Camel was always a tricky affair and this control method makes it even more so. Maybe it's just me and a total inability to use on-screen D-Pads for hectic games and I've just been using physical controls for too long and just don't get on with them. But on the tablet (I must admit I haven't tried it on a phone sized device) the size of the D-Pad is too big to accurately hit without looking and I was frequently drifting across or up the screen just at a critical moment...

[UPDATE - since publishing this article, I have been contacted by the developer of the emulation layer and after assuring me that controller support was built in, I retried playing with the 360 controller and found it worked perfectly. So it seems my tablet was having an off day when I first tried it. I will be re-evaluating Wings now, and will update this conclusion in due course, but suffice to say my main concern has been addressed.]

So I thought "Maybe they've implemented physical controller support" and grabbed my Ipega bluetooth gamepad. Unfortunately there was no joy in this department and none of the modes worked. Then I tried a USB OTG cable and hooked up both an xbox 360 controller and a USB Competition Pro, both of which work well with other games and with emulators, but unfortunately again no joy(stick).

can't even earn my wings...

The emulator side is well thought out. There's a pop up keyboard for the typing bits that looks like the keys could've been stolen straight off an A500 and the emulation is accurate but they've sped up disk access times (probably emulated a hard disk as the original was HDD installable) so there's no loading times though they could've emulated an A1200 and got some better framerates in the 3D combat sections. As it stands the framerate is accurate to a vanilla 68000.

Now you look familiar...

This is getting silly now...

Finally, a side effect of this exclusive offering to kickstarter backers is that until recently, many of the the Amiga original disk images were available to freely download on the Cinemaware website for emulation or playing on real Amiga hardware, but this legitimate source has now been removed, preventing one from emulating with an emulator that might help alleviate some of the issues outlined above. However packaged versions will be available alongside the PC versions at such as the latest Defender of the Crown release.

Crashed AGAIN...

I really hope Cinemaware can take this feedback onboard as otherwise this is a wonderful thing for fans of the original to have but, for me at least, has made it be reduced to a mere curiosity that is frustrating at best and unplayable at worst.

I think I shall stick to either emulating through Omega 500, UAE4Droid or UAE4All2 or playing the remastered version once it's available. I really want to like this release but I think it's going to do more harm than good to people's memories of the game (or maybe that's the point?)

Device tilt in the remastered version is much more intuitive on a tablet

So thanks must go to Cinemaware for doing this gesture to the retro fans, but sadly misses the mark from a lack of attention to detail.

Wings! Remastered will be available from October 17th on
iTunes for iOS
Google Play for Android

Cinemaware website


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