Following up on the Nintendo DS download titles AiRace and AiRace Tunnel, QubicGames brings a new entry in the series to the Nintendo 3DS for the first time. AiRace Speed brings fast-paced futuristic racing with a twist to the twin-screens, inevitably drawing comparisons to Nintendo's F-Zero. With the latter game missing in action for a number of years, can AiRace Speed satisfy the cravings of fans that need a portable future racing fix?
The short answer, sadly, is no. AiRace Speed isn't about racing or competing with other pilots, computer-controlled or otherwise, but, instead, is a solo race to the finish on a number of different courses. Pillars, moving objects, narrow corridors and twisty bends all combine to create tracks that make it extremely difficult to complete three laps in the shortest possible time, but that is the goal in AiRace Speed.
A case of trial and error, crashes are part and parcel of what AiRace Speed is about, and the sight of ships exploding into pieces will become a familiar picture. By boosting through courses in order to hit the next checkpoint, which works as an instant respawn point after any crashes, a degree of quick reflexes and memorisation becomes necessary to dodge around obstacles and choose the best routes through the tunnels, and ensure the fastest completion times in an attempt to bag the gold star awards. Many a retry will be needed to step up from winning bronze and silver stars and unlock other levels.
AiRace Speed isn't an easy ride; it's designed to frustrate and is geared towards players looking for a challenge. There's a slight thrill and element of excitement to nitro boosting around the tightest of corners, narrowly squeezing through moving gaps and ranking in the online scoreboards, but that's really all there is to it. Most stages don't share much difference in design and too often it seems like obstacles come out of nowhere, or the ship collides when it looks like it should have made it cleanly passed.
The only other game type apart from levels which require three laps to finish are endless runs where the goal is to keep going without crashing for as long as possible, racking up mileage on the counter with only three chances to do it. Unfortunately, there are only a couple of these melded in with the 18 tracks on offer. AiRace Speed could have done with more alternative game modes, perhaps including actual online multiplayer races, as well as some more diversity in the track designs.
Constant crashes will frustrate, especially when the slightest collision is a determining factor in setting a new record or not, but for those that persist and enjoy restarting over to improve skills and achieve great times, there's fun to be had.
Sharp and crisp with no slowdown, the game looks good in motion, but there needed to be some variations in course design instead of the same old grey tunnels that are too often seen.
Space racers need a solid soundtrack, and AiRace Speed doesn't disappoint in that regard, thankfully. Trance seems to be the prominent theme, perfectly suited to the speedy nature, begging for headphones to be used whilst playing.
It doesn't take long to obtain gold in all courses and the in-game achievements don't offer too much incentive to accomplish them, but there are a solid couple of hours or more here, as well as online leader boards to try and rank in.
Don't make the mistake of thinking AiRace Speed can be a solid alternative to F-Zero… because it isn't. This is no competitive multiplayer racing experience, and instead tries to appeal to those that like a trial and error-type challenge that creates its thrills out of boosting and dodging through tunnels that generally all look alike and trying to rank highly online. There will be an audience for this short-burst, fast-paced action that requires skill to get the best out of it, but AiRace Speed sadly isn't that portable futuristic racing replacement that most would have hoped it would be. It is worth looking into for racing fans, however.
Did look good, screens anyway, though can understand how it can become repetitive!
I've played this now, and can understand where some of the frustration lies. It's a bit too sensitive compared to the DSiWare version, and getting through a level with anything other than the standard bronze is nigh on impossible!