Reviewing disclaimer : the original product was released standalone for USD 24.95 at the end of October 2019. It is now included in a bundle that comprises Bimini, Cat Cay and The Berry Islands and is available for USD 39.99. Please note that only the South Bimini and Cat Cay part has been reviewed.
The Bimini and Cat Cay scenery is the first scenery published by Photosim Labs. The scenery covers South Bimini and Cat Cay keys, in their full representation from ground polygons, buildings to custom vegetation. Covered aeronautical installations are South Bimini Airport (MYBS), Cat Cay airstrip (MYCC), a seaplane base in North Bimini, and several helipads scattered around. This scenery addresses almost all types of flyers. South Bimini Airport holds a 2000m / 6,500ft runway that can accommodate up to medium size airliners, while seaplane and rotary wing fans will all have a reason to stop in the area. Cat Cay airstrip, being only 400m / 1,300ft long, will prove challenging to even the best pilots, whether it is for landing or for take-off.
The scenery provided comes as a single zip file that is about 2.2 Gb. It contains 5 folders. One for each airport, then a base scenery, a ground file and an altitude elevation correction file. A .txt file details all the steps needed in order to install and activate the scenery. This procedure is actually very simple, however one could expect an installer within this price range. There is no configurator either. Users who would like to disable static aircraft shall do this by manually disabling the related bgl file. However the filenames are clear and it is easy to know which one to disable. The scenery comes with no other manual. Considering that most pilots do not know the area and that the various charts available have scarce information about where to go and what to do aviation-wise, at least a short description of what to expect could have been useful too.
After the installation, it is time to launch the simulator and visit the Biminis.
While South Bimini and Cat Cay are not big, the entire area has received special care. The scenery is entirely covered by a satellite imagery that covers both land and coral reefs. On top of that, each small village, landmark or resort has been modeled, as well as the two airports on the Biminis : South Bimini Airport and Cat Cay Airstrip. The scenery also features several helipads scattered around the islands and a seaplane base. Unfortunately, these aeronautical platforms are not selectable from the menu, so pilots will have to fly there in order to use them. Photosimlabs could have for example, created fake ICAO IDs in order to make them selectable from the simulator menu. Another solution would have been to provide flight scenarios with default aircraft.
Aeronautical installations are simple in the area. Pilots will have to spawn at South Bimini Airport or Cat Cay Airstrip. These airports have no instrument procedures. It is down to the simplest of VMC flying, even if you are coming in with a tubeliner. The only navaid is a VOR (also modeled) available not too far from South Bimini Airport. Landing without the usual references such as an ILS or a PAPI can prove challenging for some. South Bimini (MYBS) airport is your typical local airfield that can welcome commercial traffic. Don’t expect huge terminals, jetways and perfect taxiway layout: welcome to the kingdom of short taxi times, general aviation crowded ramp and airstairs boarding.
Cat Cay Airstrip (MYCC) is a private airstrip located south of Bimini Island. It is owned by the Cat Cay Yacht Club. Due to its very short runway, landing and take-off performance calculation is paramount on the airstrip, and any deviation from the aircraft performance will probably result in a swimming session in the marina.
The amount of details make both airports very lively. This is achieved through people, animals and many small scenes such as planes deboarding, vehicles, boats being prepped and so on. However, no vehicles nor people will move since they are all static. An impressive area is the detail that has been put in textures, especially on the ground textures. Parking positions and runways bear marks of the time, such as tires marks, cracks, different shades in concrete. This is very immersive and does not feel repetitive. The cherry on the cake would have been PBR textures, but they are not present.
The volume and the variety of vegetation is insane. The downturn is that most of these are 2D sprites, for performance reasons. The good news is that unless you try to land in the trees, this is barely visible at all when you are flying around. Even though the islands are basically flat, this gives a sense of volume to the islands that is distinctive even from far away. For example, if you take-off from any of the airports and look in the direction of the other island, you will already see the island as soon as you are airborne, thanks to the vegetation visible in the distance.
One can not fly in the Carribeans without taking a look at the beaches. Once again, the attention to detail is amazing. Climbing at a higher altitude, the pilot can appreciate the fine carving of the coastline. Getting closer on the islands, pilots can see the sea walls and embankments. Some areas, such as the approach coastline at South Bimini (MYBS) runway 27 threshold even have 3D rocks and signs modeled. The paradisiac seabeds characteristic of shallow waters are also here. Whether it is from almost sea level or passing at high altitude, where man has digged in the corals to create boat canals, you can see them. Some channels even have boats navigating them, and you will not see cruise boat transiting right on top of a coral reef. Speaking of boats, all of them that have a landing pad are actually landable. Pilots should be careful though that they are static and will not turn with the wind. Depending on the weather conditions, it can prove difficult or impossible to avoid the boat structure. The downside is also that again, despite the sensation of life of the scenery, none of the boats are moving, even the ones in the canal, giving the impression that the sim is on pause sometimes. This is awkward when using some helipads where boats are supposed to be sailing nearby for example.
Many of the details are clearly off airport. This review will not spoil all the Easter Eggs found, but something that I really enjoyed was that my curiosity was rewarded each time I decided to go off-road.
The Bimini scenery is located off the coast in the plain ocean. There are no PBR textures, there is not much terrain, land surface is small and there are no complicated vector data such as roads. As such, only top notch performance is accepted. In that regard, Photosim Labs has reached their goal, by maintaining very high frame rate anywhere the pilot would fly.
Photosim Labs has created an excellent rendition of Bimini Island and Cat Cay. The scenery performs well and swarms with Easter Eggs and details. Unfortunately, it does not use the latest technology such as PBR rendering or does not animate the numerous live scenes scattered around. Pilots should be aware that while it is not difficult, the installation has to be done manually. After those shortcomings, those looking for a new VFR area to discover will love the Bimini and Cat Cay scenery. Others will find a challenge into landing and taking off from Cat Cay airstrip, and flying between all the helipads in the area. In the end, most pilots should find what they are looking for in the Photosim Labs rendition. It is an invitation to discover more of the Cays and the Caribbeans.
- The quality of the rendition of both airports is top notch.
- Impressive vegetation covering the islands
- Quality of textures and photo imagery
- No PBR textures
- No animations
- Scenery needs to be manually installed
- No manuals provided apart the textfile for installation