SkyDrift (Xbox Live Arcade)

Review – SkyDrift

Flying/Racing

Fly the unfriendly skies.

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Rich

One of the neat things about running the UK’s premier games site that nobody knows about is that occasionally, when we can be bothered talking to them, PR people send us games like this review.  Another XBLA curiosity, released to die at a price point that’ll stop most sane gamers from even having a go on the trial.  At 1200M$P SkyDrift can most definitely fly off into the sunset as far from our wallets as possible, but as a minor distraction from our Dead Island obsession we’re happy to sit down with a freebie and give it our attention.

We’re glad we did.  SkyDrift is a plane-based power-up racer, a bit like Diddy Kong Racing (apparently), that follows the usual conventions of the genre without falling victim to them.  That is to say that the power-ups themselves are a nice mix of offensive and defensive skills that won’t see you losing a race on the finish line but will reward a little bit of bravery over those opponents who are content to simply race to the finish line.  Also, the mix of game areas, with their bold graphics and occasional shortcuts, echo long-time PEOWW favourite Hydro Thunder.  That’s never a bad thing.

Catching some of that Hydro Thunder appeal with a water-based level.

With no plot to worry about, the game is a basic, arcade-styled affair with a mix of regular races, speed races (where you maintain speed by flying through hoops) and survivor races (where the last placed plane is eliminated at set intervals until only one is left).  On the default Normal difficulty and above, SkyDrift represents a fairly substantial challenge (although achievement whores will be glad to know you can max the game on Easy) although it is quite a short game with a campaign mode that can be finished in just a few hours.

The best thing about the game is the boost system which gives you precious boost for flying dangerously low and shooting enemies.  It introduces an element of risk vs. reward which is still our favourite aspect of any arcade styled game.   This mechanic, combined with the solid game engine, sees you taking more chances than you would in a car or kart-based game of this type and it often sees you crashing hopelessly into the scenery.  Thankfully, the penalties for crashing are less severe than other racing games and you’ll be back on track (so to speak) quicker than usual.

At a lower price point, this would be a nice little arcade hidden gem.  God knows that if it had been released on the Dreamcast, we’d have loved the arse off of it (a lot more than that Propellor Arena bullshit) but at 1200M$P, it just doesn’t have the chops to justify the price.  Sure, it’s polished with the dynamic levels all looking suitably exciting and everything moving along at a decent rate but with no real pre-release hype, and the silly price, this game is already fairly dead online.

Other problems are that the game is always wrestling you to keep you on the invisible ‘correct’ path, even if that means shoving you directly into an obstacle.  It becomes a constant irritation until you learn the tracks, which is fair enough when you can see what you’re learning, but a bit a of twat here when you have clear line of sight between where you are and what you can see.  Also, the sluggish controls aren’t particularly well thought-out.  Especially the power turning which requires you to use both sticks.  That just feels wrong.

Overall though, I’ve already had a lot of fun with the game.  It’s accessible, arcadey and it looks and sounds good.  It’s an obvious choice for a quick ‘deal of the week’ appearance and if they drop it to less than 800M$P (a price that would still seem a little much), grab it.  It’s a good game.  Just one that’s being sold by greedy fools.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 6/10

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