Review

SkyDrift (Xbox360)

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SkyDrift is a little game that tries really hard. It has action! It has heavy machinery that flies at break neck speeds shooting each other to pieces! It even has power-ups! We should know by now, however, that a list of features does not a game make…

At its core, SkyDrift is an action arcade racer. You have a selection of very modern looking propeller based planes to choose from and then race against AI or up to seven other players online. Each aircraft has different handling attributes, are faster, stronger or more manoeuvrable than the others. Each plane also has a few skins to make them stand out from the crowd.

SkyDrift Screenshot 1

Flying your plane is fairly straightforward but often feels a little too realistic for its setting as an arcade racer. Tight corners can be taken by ‘drifting’ your plane around them, which is a little silly, but still fun (more on this a little later). As for the plane’s designs, they all look rather smashing – kudos to the design team!

So far so good, but it gets better. Each of the very detailed aircraft is equipped with a couple of guns. This allows you to take out any of your opponents in front of you. Careful aiming is not really required as this is an arcade racer, after all.

To sweeten the deal even further, you can collect power-ups that give you an extra edge over your opponents. These include the standard fare of speed boosts and missiles rounded off with a few more. Power-ups can be picked up at set points along the tracks, and in the first few corners it’s normally a dash to see who can get the first few power-ups to gain the upper-hand.

SkyDrift Screenshot 2

Power-ups can either be used as advertised (rockets can be fired, for example), or they can be converted to turbo boost to allow you to widen the gap a little more between you and your opponents. See, if you are in the lead then there is no need for missiles that can only be shot forward. Rather than just wasting them, you can convert the missiles into boost, which will allow you to travel faster and also free up a power-up slot for use by something more useful, like a set of mines.

Power-ups also stack up: Collect two missiles and they combine into an even stronger missile. This ‘stacking’ system is very limited and a bigger play on this concept would have made SkyDrift stand out a bit more. As it stands, this mechanic is a little lacking.

SkyDrift Screenshot 3

The first disappointment I experienced in SkyDrif is the controls. Flying is never easy and when this is combined with racing, and even further with combat, then you need to make sure it’s easy and intuitive to control. In gameplay terms, SkyDrift could be described as ‘Mario Kart in the sky,’ but the sheer simplicity of Mario Kart is lost in SkyDrift. The extra axis that your plane can be controlled in (i.e. up and down) actually detracts rather than adds to the fun. Karting games should stick to the ground or change how they’re controlled.

The tracks are wonderfully varied, and beautifully designed and you’ll find yourself racing through icy landscapes or tropical islands with misty waterfalls. The lower you fly the more dangerous these levels will get and rightfully so – low flying provides more of points and a larger speed boost. Some corners in these levels are simply too sharp to manoeuvre through and almost always result in scraped paint or a crash into a wall, even when applying a bit of drifting magic. Had the controls been a bit more forgiving or better balanced it might not have been a problem.

SkyDrift Screenshot 4

SkyDrift is a fun kart racer with a twist, but ultimately falls short of being in the same league as the big names and is instead a fun distraction rather than a long term investment. If you must play a kart game then give this downloadable title a look, but you can do better with titles like Mario Kart, ModNation Racers, WipEout and Blur.

The Good: Pretty; quite fun; great designs on the aircraft
The Bad: Balance between arcade fun and realistic flier is lacking
The Ugly: Seeing those beautiful craft blow up is a crime!


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