Published on October 2nd, 2011 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
Developer: Digital Reality
Platform: Xbox LIVE Arcade
MSRP: USD 14.99, 1200 MS Points
Release Date: Sept. 6, 2011 (New DLC to come)
“I shouldn’t be alive right now.” That was one line that repeated itself in my head while playing SkyDrift. SkyDrift was developed by Digital Reality (Dead Block) and takes racing to the skies. In this fast paced racer that really does draw reminiscences of Hydro Thunder, but with more wind underneath these wings.
Graphically, SkyDrift is one of the better looking games on the Xbox LIVE Arcade. Flying close to the ground aids in your speed, but the motion blurs and details are highly noticeable. Other elements, such as the snowy caps and icy glaciers, showcase some pristine views of protruding land masses. Similar to that of Hydro Thunder, there are a few environmental elements that weigh in over the course of your flight.
The levels vary in their design and do a great job of becoming ambidextrous by taking on the same map in reverse. Don’t think that just because you have already flown the deathly frosty caverns, or claustrophobic canyons, that you have become an ace.
Taking on these in reverse gives a totally new perspective on the map that you have flown from time and time again. The same hair thin turn may look different from the opposite view, but could also lead to a new turn in direction the return route.This variation is further emphasized with the varying game modes and the previously mentioned elemental encounters.
The modes that you will see during the campaign are pretty standard as far as racing titles are concerned. The modes include such traditional options as the standard Race, Survival (person in last is eliminated), and Digital Reality’s take on the Speed Run. While these might not grab you outright as a racer, being in a jet powered –single-engine airplane with gunners firing away at your every move will definitely put a different tail spin on the genre.
The power-ups in the game allow players to strategize on the run with both defensive and offensive upgrades. What is interesting about SkyDrift, is that by grabbing the same power-up twice, you can level it up, or “stack” them, giving you a more powerful upgrade. There is nothing more satisfying than hanging on to some missiles, grabbing more, and nailing the smoke trail in front of you in order to gain the first place spot. The upgrades can also be turned into “boost” by using the ‘B’ button, which also takes a different approach to the balancing of racers of its kind.
While the offensive upgrades are great, the defensive are just as valuable. Grabbing items like the pulse allow you to clear enemy mines, or drop incoming missiles that are trailing behind, but still slow down and crash already damaged planes. One area where you wont find the upgrades in place is the Speed Run.
At first glance this mode seemed like all the others, which meant hitting every ring and being docked for those missed. In this case, hitting every ring increases your speed and you must maintain maneuverability in order to come out on top. Boost is available here, but increases over the hit of every ring. This was extremely challenging yet fun. There were times where I was playing by myself and wished that someone else was watching or that I had made that purchase for a capture card.
There were plenty of things to like about SkyDrift. The game implemented a unique power-up system, brought some decent looking graphics to the XBLA, and did some great things with the game modes offered. It was tough though to see the game struggle at times and miss out on level variation.
Just like any other racers, having an error free run still might leave you still coming down to the wire to pull off the ‘perfect time’ or ‘win’ wanted. Making a wrong move or turn might leave you to hit an unwanted obstacle or wall. In the case of SkyDrift, these came far too often.
Flying over large land masses, or making sharp “knife” turns, often gave an unfortunate outcome. Flying at high speeds often left for some dramatic flight changes in order to regain control. During this time, it was often that the course correction by the computer led to a crash and burn. This was also the case with the spin type move that occurs when doing knife turns and rolling in and out of caverns and sharp strafes. This was another hit-or-miss move, which surprisingly worked great at times.
It wouldn’t have been a big deal, but it happened more than once, on more than one map. It was just my luck,that these instances occurred during heated races, costing first place positions.
The balancing of the games power-ups were hit and miss. With the use of various defensive power-ups, it was easy to burn a few for boost and beat the computer from getting the missiles or machine gun.
SkyDrift is a fast-paced sky dive of a time. There were plenty of “OS!” moments to keep my attention over the long haul of recycled maps, even with the flawed climbing and crashing due to the auto course correction. The game modes will definitely give enough variation and challenge for those looking for a competitive racer.
There are unlockables, leaderboards, and online multiplayers that should make a frequent flyer out of you. The review does take a little recourse from others offered being that they have since patched and included two DLC packs for the game. At this point, while playing the standard game, the price point might make some steer clear instead of flying with fear.
[xrr label=”Rating: 7.5/10″ rating=7.5/10]
– Course Correct
– Level Variation