I tear across the start line pitching downward towards the water to build my boost meter, the vapor trails of my adversaries ripple around me. I pick up a missile power up before tearing around a corner, which I misjudge and smash into a wall and explode spectacularly. I am almost immediately thrust back into the race however and another racer is dead in my sights. A missile lock is established, I hold the button down to fire all of my payload at once and the plane goes down in a ball of flames. Unfortunately I was so focused on that I miss the turn and slam into a wall and erupt into my own shower of fire and debris. Immediately launched back into the action, I swoop down into a rock formation for a power-up but misjudge where the gap in the rocks is and I explode in fiery shame once again. This may sound like I am describing a frustrating experience but this is not the case, this is one of the most purely fun experiences I’ve had with a video game for a long time.
I enjoy racing games but being that I do not have the patience to get good at simulation-style titles like Forza or Gran Turismo, I want to drive really fast in an unrealistic manner and just have a great time. Skydrift is ridiculously fun, possibly the finest pure arcade racing I’ve experienced since Sega’s arcade heyday of titles like Daytona USA and Sega Rally. But aspiring beyond being merely another arcade racer, Skydrift takes this winning arcade formula and applies it to aeroplanes locked in a furious and wildly unrealistic series of power-up filled races. Despite my numerous crashes as detailed above, Skydrift gets you back into the action so quickly that you know you may now have to some catching up to do but there’s no break in the excitement. The game also boasts the varied selection of different locales you would expect from tropical paradises to the icy tundra, complete with sneaky alternate routes dotted around the courses. Power-ups are the usual suspects such as homing missles, a chain gun and a pulse-type attack that affects anything unlucky enough to be too close to you. There’s even a little dash of Burnout risk-taking in there as flying precariously close to the ground, taking advantage of other racers slipstream and other little tricks help build your boost meter, a must have on that last desperate dash for the finish line.
A game like this has to be able to deliver the thrills in an exciting manner too and here too Skydrift excels, rising above the look of many other digital-only releases. Things zip along satisfyingly smoothly with a great sense of speed, the prettifying of the environments serves only to enhance rather than distract. The plane designs are also really, really cool. So cool in fact that I want to keep on playing just so I can unlock more of them and the additional snazzy paint jobs each one has. Digital Realities has a worthy development history all the way back to the early 90’s with the Commodore Amiga and this game carries a great sense of confidence and assurance, not to mention a well-tuned sense of what makes a game just plain great fun to play. The game has also seen some post-release support in the shape of extra planes and whole new game modes that take the racing out altogether and present pure arcade dogfights the likes of which you don’t see in many video games anymore.
All in all a cracking good time for 15 notes or left, all arcade racing fans should grab this game by the yolk and give it a good pull.
Skydrift on Steam
Skydrift on Xbox Live
Also available on the Playstation Network