How Fast Can You Go –
With two games available on DSiWare, the AiRace series has established itself as some of the better racing titles for Nintendo’s downloadable service especially with the low price point. This third game, AiRace Speed, is a natural evolution from the previous two titles and offers some twitch high speed gameplay with a great use of stereoscopic 3D.
AiRace Speed is almost like an expansion pack of AiRace Tunnel, the previous DSiWare title. Using button or stylus controls, the goal is to fly a futuristic vehicle down a claustrophobic tunnel in the shortest amount of time. If you took the futuristic atmosphere and over-the-top speed of F-Zero and merged it with the flying of Star Fox you will have a good understanding of the gameplay mechanics behind this $5 download.
Speed is the main gameplay element here. So much so that AiRace Speed is solely a single player experience; you cannot wirelessly compete against other humans or even AI controlled racers. Only having time trial style gameplay does seem like a missed opportunity but instead the developers have put a larger focus on online leaderboards. As soon as a track is finished scores are immediately uploaded to the online leaderboard. There is no race against a ghost option, no power ups to deploy, and there is no option to upgrade playable vehicles. In comparison to the Wipeouts, Mario Karts, and F-Zero titles, this is unusual and restricting. However, this makes shaving off half a second to your fastest lap even more critical especially since most races can be finished in less than two minutes.
The controls are simple but getting comfortable with the physics will take a few laps to get used to. Without pressing any buttons, the vehicle will move around 200mph but this speed will double if the nitro button is held down. Needless to say, using nitro makes the player more susceptible to high speed crashes and overheating but is necessary to earn that higher rank on the leaderboard. Track memorization and twitch reflexes are the key to success.
There are almost 20 playable tracks but each one is unlocked sequentially. The good news is that it is not difficult finishing a track thanks to the forgiving checkpoint system. The challenge comes from finishing quickly. Crashing mid-track gives the player the option of going back to the previous checkpoint or restarting altogether. Reverting back to the previous checkpoint adds a few seconds to your final time so it is not without penalty. The 5-10 second load time before each track is annoying but restarting back to a previous checkpoint is instantaneous, again keeping speed at the forefront. Besides fitting into tight spots, making sudden turns, or battling the airflow from a giant fan, players also have to be mindful of the rotation of the vehicle. The shoulder buttons pivot the craft from the horizontal position to a vertical one, just like in Star Fox or Star Wars.
AiRace takes full advantage of the 3DS hardware and offers some great 3D effects. In fact, this is one of the few games you will always want to have the 3D slider cranked up to full blast. Racing down these wormholes looks fantastic in 3D; the sense of speed and depth are the highlighting bullet points of this game. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t seem as clear as it does when playing in 2D. The stereoscopic 3D looks great but when the slider is turned back down to 2D, the game just looks a lot clear and more colorful. But this is most likely the nature of 3D imagery as movies and other games also suffer from this compromise. Also, there is a really well put together opening FVM, too bad it isn’t available in 3D.
The in-game UI is informative as it tells the player the amount of track left before reaching the finish line and current speed but the main menu input is a little strange because it requires the use of the touchscreen; the face buttons are disabled. While not a make or break deal, it is a little inconvenient scrolling through pages of Achievements and accessing the game by using the stylus then switching back to button controls when actually racing. And speaking of Achievements, there are dozens to unlock but the game does not indicate when one is unlocked*; the player has to manually check if Achievements have been unlocked via the main menu. Since Achievements cannot be shared with other players, these objectives are not really necessary anyway.
My other complaint comes from the title itself. What is the proper pronunciation of this game? It is “Air Race,” or “eh-race, or even “eh-eye Race”? Eh-eye Race wouldn’t really make sense because there is no AI in the game. That capital “A” and capital “R” in the title is confusing. This is just some strange marketing behind this speedy franchise.
AiRace Speed is not going to keep you entertained like a Mario Kart title, but this $5 download is more for players who thrive on reaching the top of the worldwide leaderboard. Even though you cannot race against your buddies, AI, or even your own ghost, competition is still high thanks to the well implemented online ranking system.
Not As Good As: F-Zero
Also Try: Forsaken 64 (N64)
Wait For It: Mario Kart 8
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com
*Correction: the game does in fact indicate when an Achievement has been unlocked with a fading 3 second icon. (But when you are driving at 400+ mph, it just might be a little difficult to see.)