Developer: Digital Reality
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Available: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
If ever there was need not to judge a game by its cover, SkyDrift would be a prime example. The rather bland looking image of a propeller based aeroplane, posted up on numerous download services does nothing for the finished article that combines Mario Kart and Modnation Racers with a hint of Blazing Angels.
You read correctly, SkyDrift is no mere flight simulation or flight racing game. While traversing around a race track with tight turns and tunnels determined to engage your brain, you will need to delve in to that unused 90% of brain power, in order to fend off other racers who may have a Missile lock on you.
There really isn’t much of a story to SkyDrift. After a small tutorial you hop into Stage 1 of 7 with the aim being to beat the other pilots, but fear not! The learning curve is nothing drastic so jumping in at the deep end is the best thing for any Novice.
SkyDrift is not a bad looking game at all. The scenery is very picturesque, but with the intensity of a race you won’t find yourself with too much time to stop and take a picture. Explosions from the unlucky pilot you have just shot down, or from the wall you just crashed into are very satisfying. SkyDrift lets itself down slightly on occasion because (only when you hit a wall) your plane does some strange drifting/floating away thing, after it’s supposed to be in pieces and scattered all over the mischievous wall that got in your way.
The music that accompanies the menu does well to put you in the mood of flying a plane. You really do feel ready to suit up put in a performance worthy of Tom Cruise. It may be a small thing, but the selection noise coincides with the music well. It makes you want to scroll in time with the music (you know it’s not just me that does that).
I was taken aback slightly by the voiceover guiding me through the tutorial. Some Spanish guy telling me how to boost was definitely…different. It wasn’t long before Mr Spain was doing his best to annoy me. During the Tutorial stage, you are able to fly around after learning the desired task so that you can perfect it. This is where Mr Spain does not leave you alone. It felt like every minute he would chime in telling me that to proceed in training I needed to press the back button. Once is enough thank you!
The noise of the planes themselves tends to drift into the background; they all sound very similar. The scales are constantly tipping for audio in SkyDrift, one moment you are happily listening to your machine gun, the next the rocket lock-on beep will not leave you alone.
Controls are really easy to get to grips with. Trigger buttons speed you up or slow you down, then the 4 main buttons have one function each. A = Boost, X = Use power up, Y = Select between power-ups (you can carry 2 at once) and B = Burns power-up and converts it to boost bar. Steering is done with the sticks. Left for normal, right tilts the plane into “knife edge” to help with the tighter corners. A lot of players will find that they also try to use their body as a controller. On many occasion I could have been observed craning my neck to try and add some extra turn to the aircraft.
The first couple of planes you can use are distinctly average but you can get the job done with them. As you progress through the stages you can unlock others to use.
Flying past someone may sound easy until you realise that passing them could be the biggest mistake of your flight. Power-ups are a key ingredient to many of the races. Missiles and machine guns will tear through your aircraft, but equally, they are handy for catching up with someone who has broken away from the pack. To avoid damage, use a shield. Shields are fairly self explanatory. Use one and you won’t crash or burn. Taking damage doesn’t have to be the end though, pick up a repair tool and it will be just like R2D2 has locked down your stabiliser and put out the fire.
Unlike a game such as Mario Kart where a Red Shell will go to the racer infront of you, SkyDrift allows anyone to hit anyone. Whoever is in 3rd could easily take a pot shot at 1st. Being part of the pack means power-ups will be flying in and it can be utter carnage! Being out in front is often the safest place to be. Arming your self with a shield/repair tool and an offensive weapon such as the machine gun or rockets is usually a secure victory
After learning the ropes you will find yourself holding down the accelerator for maximum pace as you hurtle around dodging mines or squeezing through a gap perfectly sized for your plane. However, don’t forget the break. Slamming in to a wall because you took a tight turn too quickly is a poor reason to lose a race
Different race modes keep everything fresh. They also are a great time to experiment with other planes. A manoeuvrable plane is handy for a speed race during which there are no power-ups to help or hinder you, whereas a heavily armoured plane is great during the all out warfare of a power race.
Within each “Stage” there are a number of races to complete. SkyDrift does well to taunt a player into playing each race until it is won. On the Menu screen as you flick between stages, there is an icon next to each that shows up gold if you have won every race in a stage. If you have won 4 but only came 2nd in the last race, the icon next to the stage will be silver. That just won’t do for any perfectionist. Having said that, it’s hard to see this game being more than a flavour of the month. There is a lot of repetition and after a couple of hours gameplay it was usually time to turn off.
VERDICT: Purchasing SkyDrift will not leave you frustrated with yourself for wasting money. It is very easy to get a number of flight hours under your belt very quickly. Repetitiveness could be a slight hindrance to this title, but after you turn your console off and take a break, the itch to gain vengeance on the little sod that pipped you to a win will consume you in no time. The questions you need to ask yourself are as follows: Do you like Racing? Do you like Mario Kart? Do you like Aeroplanes? If you answered yes to any combination of those, then SkyDrift will sit happily amongst your downloadable games collection.