Polish development studio QubicGames returns to the Nintendo eShop with their third sequel in the classic DSi series AiRace, AiRace Speed. In this futuristic racing experience you find yourself not racing against fellow racers but against the track itself to beat your own personal times. But just how’s much fun can you have in this desolate future?
The answer is in fact an awful lot. There’s no other drivers which allows you to focus on simply the track itself, which is stunning to look at. Whether your zooming through tight neon lit tubes or passing by massive planetary displays making sure not to crash into a planet, the scenery is something you enjoy while you play rather than being something blurring by in the background. The open area sections of the game are actually a key part of the game themselves with the adding new mechanics such as giant fans changing the air pressure in the area making you need to stabilize yourself or being given the option to pick from two routes through the track each bringing their own challenges. The six different ships themselves look very distinctive rather than looking like the same lump of metal but in a different colour. The final ship you unlock I felt was the most interesting with it reminding me a dragonfly but was also a shape that wouldn’t be possible with grounded racers.
Crashing will be your main enemy in the game. The courses are done via a time trial where dependent on your end time you will receive a bronze, silver or gold medal. The medals themselves unlock more of the eighteen tracks within the game with the final six tracks requiring a certain amount of silver or gold stars to unlock. This seems simple enough but every time you crash you suffer a 3 second penalty to your time which is easy to do when you can be flying at up to 600MPH. The game doesn’t try and get cheap wins out of this mechanic though. The majority of things you can crash into the game are incredibly well marked and if playing with the 3D also pop out. Whether it be obstacles within the pipes being outlined in a distinctive yellow border or areas you can crash into will being surrounded by a red light while navigating a series of interlinking tunnels, you will never feel that the game has taken a cheap shot.
The game’s longevity is actually pretty surprising. You will yourself unlocking the majority of the tracks in the game so quickly you will worry you’re going to get your monies worth. Once you hit the point of needing to unlock the later levels via silver and gold medals, this is where the difficulty curve kicks in. Where you could carefully navigate obstacles before you will find yourself going at top speed, carefully maneuvering past obstacles where a clip of a wing could cost you your gold on some levels. You can easily find hours disappearing into endless retries and that thrill when you finally make it. However the actually races themselves are quite short with them lasting roughly 1-3 minutes which make them perfect for play while travelling. All the loading screens within the game also have the buttons on the top screen so not matter how long you have been away you can always pick up and play. The game includes an online scoreboard so you can see how your times match up against others around the world but also plenty of achievements to obtain for the completionists.
The music the game fits in perfectly. It has a techno soundtrack which alters from course to course but it isn’t too heavy to be a distraction. On one of the special courses of the game where you need to go through multiple laps avoiding obstacles as your ship gets faster, the music is actually pretty calm so you can concentrate better which I thought was very considerate of the development staff. Sounds effects are on the mark too even down to the clicks on the menu screen. During the race you will find yourself listening mostly to the wurl of your ship’s engine but the little touches of hearing the air slip past your ship as you narrowly pass by an obstacle adds to the atmosphere of the game and makes you better understand just how fast your going as well as getting your blood pumping.
Overall AiRace Speed is a beautiful racer which is easy to pick up but difficult to master while making itself accessible no matter how long you may or may not played. With such a reasonable price and so much to do unlocking all the tracks, online leaderboard and achievements, AiRace Speed is in my opinion one of the best e-shop exclusive games it has to offer.
- Easy to pick up
- Hard to put down
- Beautiful to look at
- Immersive scenery
- Good variety of music
- Level of difficulty to keep players satisfied but not frustrated
- Subtle sound effects
- Online Leaderboards
- Can’t choose which ship you race with
AiRace Speed is now available to download from the Nintendo 3DS eShop, for $4.99, €4,99 or £4.49.