Ever since Lando Calrissian‘s triumphant escape from the imminently exploding Death Star, game developers have been trying to recreate that adrenaline fueled thrill of piloting a speeding ship through narrow tunnels. QubicGames has taken another stab at this particular brand of racing with the next iteration of their highly successful AiRace series with AiRace Speed for the Nintendo 3DS.
AiRace Speed is more of a return to the smaller title, AiRace Tunnel, than the arguably more popular AiRace, opting for spaceships and claustrophobic tunnels instead of planes and open skies. Thankfully forgoing any tacked on narrative, the game gets right to the point via its simple menu screen. The 18 different obstacle-laden “tracks” are unlocked, one at a time, as players earn stars based on their race performance. While the majority of these are straightforward races against the clock, a couple of the tracks are endless, challenging players to travel as far as they can before using up all of their lives. In addition to a continuous nitro boost ability, ships also have a rechargeable shield. Although these shields allow ships to safely scrape against walls for a moment, head on collisions will still send players back to the most recent checkpoint, with a time penalty to boot.
If the default thumbstick and D-pad controls aren’t to a player’s liking, the game includes a stylus control option. Unfortunately, due to the button layout, this control scheme feels completely unpractical and cumbersome when braking, banking, and boosting. Personally, I would have liked to have seen a gyroscopic control option instead.
As two years have gone by since the last game in the series, AiRace Speed is expectedly far prettier than its predecessors. The game’s excellent use of 3D to gauge depth and realistically create a feeling of intense speed makes it one of the few games I insist on playing with the 3D slider turned up. Although they all pretty much handle identically, the five different available ships are also pleasantly varied in appearance, which is unfortunately more than I can say for the tracks. The exact same obstacles found in the first few tracks repetitively populate every track in the game. This monotony is occasionally broken up by a few sections of track that open wide, showing off various futuristic landscapes. However, these moments are all too few and far between.
Each race can be completed in just a few minutes, making AiRace Speed perfectly suited for the mobile platform. However, those players prone to occasional moments of gamer rage take heed, if playing during a commute on public transportation; this game is far from easy. Unlocking 3/4 of the tracks in an hour or so is simple enough, but attaining the silver and gold stars needed to unlock those last few tracks can inspire more than a few regrettable, profanity-laden outbursts.
Although AiRace Speed includes achievements and online leaderboards, its lack of power-ups, an upgrade system, or any sort of multiplayer (even against AI racers), severely hinders it’s length of appeal. Those players that aren’t interested in climbing online leaderboards or shaving seconds off of their best times may sadly become bored rather quickly.
AiRace Speed is available now in the Nintendo eShop for $4.99. Have the game? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to contribute your own rating at the top!
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