For a system that touts a 3D display as its main feature, there aren’t too many racing games on the Nintendo 3DS to take advantage of the fact. You’d think that having scenery and rival vehicles coming at you would be a sure thing on the system, but other than a few examples, race fans have it pretty barren on the 3DS right now. While AiRace Speed isn’t a racing game in the strictest sense, it is certainly one of the most adrenaline-pumping titles on the platform.
You are a lone vehicle in a series of twisting and turning environments, piloting your futuristic jet-propelled craft through challenging courses as quickly and as safely as possible; a difficult thing considering the speed at which your ship travels, and the tightness of the courses themselves. So it’s a straight up Time Trial, with the player encouraged to finish the course in the fastest time for Bronze, Silver and Gold stars. These stars unlock more of the 18 courses, which get harder as you progress.
Each of AiRace Speed’s five vehicles (which are picked for you, depending on the level) are very quick, and can feel quite twitchy for beginners – but after a bit of time with the game you start to learn how your jet handles, and after a little practice and some confidence, you’ll be absolutely ripping through tracks. Most of your time will be spent navigating tight tubes, with the occasional alternative route and wide-open area. As you can imagine, excessive speed plus tight environments make for a ton of crashes, which isn’t as frustrating as you’d imagine, as you can get right back to piloting again with a press of the A button. This accrues a three-second penalty, though, which is more than enough to ruin your best times. Crashing will also take you back to the nearest checkpoint, which are spaced far enough to make crashing a hindrance, but not too far that it becomes an irritant.
Careful use of the Nitro and Brake buttons are the order of the day, along with smart use of banking around sharp corners. As if the speed wasn’t enough, the already claustrophobic tracks are filled with dangerous barriers and obstacles, some of which move and require quick thinking to circumvent. You’ll be glad there aren’t other racers to worry about.
Oh, and AiRace Speed is fast. While the visuals and electronic soundtrack are relatively simple and unobstructive, the breakneck speed and stunning 3D visuals make for one of the most exhilerating experiences on the Nintendo 3DS to date. Although the game is about just you, the track and the timer, I could feel my heart pumping as I swiftly navigated through each turn and obstacle-infested straight. I haven’t been that worked up by a racer since F-Zero GX. The 3D also helps with depth perception – I found that turning it off seriously impeded my abilities.
But if there is a spanner in the works, it would have to be a lack of depth. With 18 short levels, you’ll see everything in about 2-3 hours. With nothing to race but the clock, better times, and leaderboards are your only tickets to extended gameplay. Achievements are also there for the taking, although, as usual, they are mostly there for bragging rights.
VERDICT: Challenging, fast and exciting, AiRace Speed is as fun as it is fast. It’s got that “one more go” factor, and provides a couple of hours of twitch gameplay for less than a fiver. While it’s not a racer, speed freaks and fans of games like Wipeout and F-Zero should lap this up (pun possibly intended). Even if you aren’t interested in hitting the leaderboards and going for faster times, this is still worth a go.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.