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SkyDrift Review (XBLA)

Game Review: SkyDrift (XBLA)
Release: September 7, 2011 (PC TBA)
Genre: Arcade Racing / Flight Simulation
Developer: Digital Reality
Available Platforms:  Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Players: 1 – 8 Online Multiplayer
MSRP: 1200 MS Points / $14.99 US
ESRB Rating:  E (10+)
Website: www.SkyDriftGame.com

Racing fans that are tired of driving cars will be thrilled with this new plane racing experience.  Ever wanted to fly an X-wing fighter through the trenches of the Death Star?  This is the next best thing.  SkyDrift puts you in control of 8 distinctively different racing planes to fly in thirty-three different racing events where you will race through industrial structures, caves and valleys in some of the fastest and smoothest flying machines I’ve ever controlled.


The game begins with a single plane available to you; additional planes are unlocked by completing events.  Each plane also has its own distinct characteristics for speed, agility and armor as well as four paint schemes to unlock, similar to the boats in Hydro Thunder.

SkyDrift’s racing events fall into three categories: Speed Races, Power Races and Survivor Races.

Speed Races as the name states are all about speed.  Along the race course there are boost rings that give you a speed boost when you fly through them.  The object is to hit as many rings as possible to maintain top speed.

 

Power Races have the usual group of power-ups scattered throughout the course that include missiles, machine guns, EMP bursts, mines and shields.  A nice touch in SkyDrift is that picking up a second power-up of the same type makes that particular weapon of shield more powerful.  Also, any unwanted power-ups can be converted into boost at any time to give you an extra push when needed.  Boost is also earned by performing stunts and flying low to the ground.  Overall this mode feels much like Blur in airplanes.

Survivor Races are eliminator style races with a timer that ticks down, and when the time runs out, whoever is in last place is eliminated,  All of the features of the Power Races apply here also, so if you can’t pass your opponents, just shoot ‘em down.

The courses are beautifully designed and rendered making them worthy of a slow, losing fly through just to take them all in.  Some events use the same courses, but in reverse, helping to keep the environment familiar but the courses fresh.  Three difficulty levels keep the game accessible to flyers of all ages even though it is rated for 10+; my four-year old loves flying in SkyDrift.

 

The best thing about SkyDrift is the controls.  They are not standard “flight simulator” controls, as these are simpler and very intuitive, making control of the planes an absolute joy.  The left stick controls up, down, left and right while the right stick controls the orientation of the plane.  For example, to make a sharp right turn, just push both sticks to the right and the plane executes a knife-edge turn through a narrow gap in the canyon.  This keeps the turns fast, exciting and fun to execute.  The third person view from behind the plane, as opposed to a cockpit view, is key to making the controls feel so smooth, because the controls are always relative to your view (the horizon) and not the plane, so up is always up, even if your plane is inverted.

The online multi-player allows up to eight to race at once and I did not notice any lag when compared to playing the single player campaign.  The only difference is that real players are a little easier to beat than the AI racers in the later levels.  My only wish is that it had a local split-screen multi-player mode.

The only thing I found irritating is that when I would stray a little off course, the game would “nudge” me back onto the course as if I were flying in an invisible tunnel.  Many time this would “nudge” me directly into an obstacle I was trying to fly around.  As I got better at following the intended course of each race, this problem went away.

My final word is to go buy this game.  It is a gorgeous, fresh take on the familiar power-up racing genre that is fast and fun without frustration.

  • Well designed controls
  • Exciting courses and flight paths
  • Up to eight players online
  • No local co-op

Final Score: 9 out of 10

You can follow SkyDrift here on Facebook and Twitter.

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