Easy to learn control scheme; fast-paced racing gameplay; challenging level design
Racing is a solo affair; lacks different gameplay modes; no way to choose other aircraft for each race
Since the launch of Nintendo 3DS, I have been on the lookout for as many racing games as possible. The handheld’s library of games has drastically improved since it first launched, excelling at offering quality titles for a wide variety of genres. However, despite the fantastic lineup of games, there is still a huge lack of racing games for me to sink my teeth into. For a device capable of displaying stereoscopic 3D effects, I am shocked that there aren’t more games for this genre. Seeing Mario Kart 7 for the first time in 3D blew my mind, and I was excited to see what could be done next. I couldn’t wait to see something faster, more challenging, and revolved completely around the skill of the player.
In many ways, AiRace Speed was the game I was looking for.
I was immediately impressed by how this game was presented to the player. AiRace Speed doesn’t waste your time by adding an unnecessary, trivial plotline to the mix. Instead, you just start the game up and find yourself on a racetrack within seconds. Being thrown into the action immediately means that the game also doesn’t give the player a tutorial. Instead, a quick diagram that displays the controls greets the player on the loading screen. While I find this nauseating in games with more complex controls, it works well in AiRace Speed because it has a simple, intuitive control scheme. The A button accelerates, the B button brakes, the L or R buttons tilt the plane respectively, and movement is controlled by the circle pad or d-pad. The presentation of AirRace Speed proves that the game knows its hardcore audience and completely embraces them with open arms.
Your aircraft controls as if the Arwing planes from Star Fox were given the horsepower of an F-Zero vehicle, which feels absolutely amazing to master as the game progresses. Piloting an aircraft at incredible speeds while dodging obstacles in the game’s many tight corridors feels like absolute gaming bliss. No matter how fast your aircraft moves, the game never shows signs of slowing down and helps the player remain engrossed within the gameplay. Each aircraft has the perfect amount of weight to it, and is capable of making sharp turns during last minute decisions. These kinds of decisions happen quite frequently, as the player may encounter a dead end in a branching pathway segment or find an obstacle that is constantly in motion. If you’re doing well, you’ll surprise yourself in these last minute instances by miraculously passing the obstacles in front of you. When you pull off frantic, fast-paced maneuvering like that, the game feels incredible.
Aside from moments like this, there will also be many instances where your aircraft completely explodes. AiRace Speed is a hard game, and it demands the performance of the player to be high at all times. The minute you crash once, you explode, and you have to start all the way back at one of the stage’s many predetermined checkpoints. Lives are unlimited, but this can still be a huge setback when you are doing very well. You also have a health bar, which goes down every time you hug too close to a wall in a tight corridor. Your health regenerates over time, but it can shoot down quickly if the player isn’t paying too much attention. Regardless, every crash the player endures is fair game. Because the controls are very well programmed, exploding aircraft will never be the fault of the game. The player will know exactly what he did wrong, and will be able to make note of that mistake for their next attempt.
Unfortunately, AiRace Speed falls short of being the great game that it could have been due to a lack of features. When I see the word race in a title of a video game, I envision multiple racers competing for first place on a single track. This is not the case in AiRace Speed, as you are the only person who races on every track of the game. Essentially, the game is nothing more than a glorified time trial mode, which is usually a fraction of what most racing games have to offer in content.
Every track has three stars to earn, as bronze stars are given for completing levels while silver and gold stars are rewarded to those that surpass preset times. Each tier of stars is important, as collecting each type helps to unlock all of the 18 tracks available in the game. While I did find myself having lots of fun trying to get a gold star on every track, I couldn’t help but feel that this shouldn’t have been AiRace Speed’s main attraction. The core gameplay could have been great as a side mode to supplement something else, like an actual racing component, but it feels hollow as the main experience because it’s lacking in variety.
Survival is the only other mode offered in AiRace Speed, but it is very limited and doesn’t last very long to be considered as a full-fledged component of the game. The player only has three lives in this mode and tries to see how far their aircraft can reach on an endless map. It’s a welcomed change of pace, as precision now takes precedence over speed, but the lack of level variety makes it short lived. Only two of the game’s 18 tracks are dedicated solely to survival mode, making it a fleeting experience. However, survival mode is still a lot of fun to play, and remains as a testament to how AiRace Speed could have benefited from more gameplay options.
Another bizarre design choice is the game’s aircraft selection. There are five different vehicles in the game, but the player is never allowed to choose which one they want to pilot. Instead, each aircraft is tied to a set of levels. Almost every racing game I have ever played has offered me a selection of cars to choose from. AiRace Speed already has that selection of cars to choose from, so I can’t understand why QubicGames didn’t go the extra step and let the players choose what they want to pilot. It would also have been interesting if each aircraft controlled differently, but they all felt like they controlled the same to me. They either have slight differences that aren’t noticeable or absolutely no control differences at all.
The game took me three hours to earn a gold star ranking on each course. While the game has online leaderboards and even achievements to earn, I found no interest in pursing them after receiving my last gold star. AiRace Speed definitely could have benefited from more content, but still I enjoyed my short time with it. While it is a very limited experience, it helped satisfy my need to play a fast, intense racing game that looks gorgeous with stereoscopic 3D. When you factor in the fact that the game is only $4.99, AiRace Speed is definitely worth your time and money.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.