Zooming through corridors fit for one at an unthinkable rate, AiRace Speed channels breakneck pacing without it becoming an anchor.
Repeated exposure can betray the orderliness of even the most frenetic affairs. Yes, games designed to hasten thinking and serve as an agency for confused thought patterns…even they are not immune to some form of casualty. Often it’s memorization that’s the most baneful, resulting in lost thrill over time as smart players sort through the chaos.
In the case of AiRace Speed, its forefront consists of agility, rapid pacing and reflex-dominated design. Being constantly on the verge of catastrophe is unmistakably thrilling. But such conditions usually come at some understated cost. The question is if the game’s forceful and propelling energy renders it impervious to such excitement-tearing rifts. And that’s a consequence I’d like to challenge.
As the third entry in QubicGames’ successful series and the first for the 3DS, AiRace Speed follows more closely after the model set in AiRace Tunnel than it does its racing-focused cousin, AiRace, where you are to zip through cylindrical passages and evade hazards installed at steady intervals. Where AiRace Speed primarily differs is through its allowance of more open and flexible designs, though this is done in a disciplined manner – passages are still not exploratory or sparse in nature, nor do they occupy heaps of space.
What you have are rooms and inner facilities that serve as path breaker and splitters against the linear tunnel roaming, at times providing access to shortcuts hidden to the side of intersections or underneath physical partitions. Often these settings are of an industrial make in keeping with the game’s hi-tech, ventilation-like interiors, so it’s not uncommon to find active assembly lines, large rocket parts, giant ceiling and floor fans, storage containers and other physical obstructions.
What all this does is convey that you’re seeking escape from a high-security plant, carrier or base, boarding nimble yet sleek craft as an act of espionage and research.
In-tunnel traps come in the form of crossbars, raised hoops, curved loops, spinning dividers and compressors, and these are spaced out at a fairly consistent rate – enough that you’ll be able to prepare for curves and rotations even while travelling at maximum velocity. The most blindsiding of traps come when there’s a change in elevation or when you have to travel around a bend – these are prime areas for crashes, which will send you back to the last checkpoint you touched along the looping track. But that’s what makes the intensity so endearing.
Averting danger in AiRace Speed is often a split-second ordeal because of the remarkable sense of speed adopted during Nitro-powered phases. Worries over stiffened controls can be put to rest, as plane behaviours remain responsive even at these harebrained times. But there is definitely a player progression that must be walked through before the controls feel quick and intuitive.
The learning curve takes its harshest swing on your very first experience with courses, as it is at these times that you feel particularly loony, but this foreignness doesn’t hamper the game’s circuit of excitement and welcomed use of heightened speed as a commodity for ballistic and crazed actions.
When not using Nitro, you’ll still find planes move along at a pace that’s swift enough for a relaxed, though still involved, approach. Part of the thrill comes from experimenting with level layouts and ascertaining the fastest path to the exit, but once all shortcuts have been discovered, this aspect becomes dulled to a state of near-decimation, devoting concentration entirely to weaving through turns and obstacles with as little shield damage intake as possible.
At the very least, this feeling of relaxation can still be developed in the one-track endless stages (three of the total 18).
On overall terms, track design is AiRace Speed’s strong suit through and through. Some tracks will be found mind-bending on your first go, even chaotic in the case of the last few. This unreal quality does lose its hold with continued knocks, but the pace ensures this lasts as long as it feasibly can before tapering off. Even when this disappears and you’ve studied tracks in full, the denominator of tracks being novel, fluid and at times seamless in design does remain, and that’s very refreshing.
What isn’t, though, is that I could tell that a few played it safe, offering minimal (if any) opportunities to deviate from a defined path. And though it’s disguised in an unstated mirror format, there is some recycling within the track selection.
Graphics and visuals remain cohesive with the game’s futuristic themes, and are stunningly polished in their own right; the use of colour within tunnels is often very attractive, and the overall fluidity in physics, movement and pace is its own beauty, amplified notably by 3D. Joining the insistent club and dance soundtrack, attentive audio design is present throughout, from the whooshing of your plane powering up, as well as the “pschonk” sounds as you cross checkpoints.
AiRace Speed’s core value incentives are its tight star system, level-specific and game-wide achievements, and online leaderboards for marking best runs against worldwide players and registered friends. Keeping the motion going shouldn’t be too hard for most with these features, but quick learners will have a hard time resisting the urge to continue playing and thus will need a competitive mindset to get more out of the game than the short hours the default provisions allow.
Dabbling in the areas that AiRace Speed does could have meant more consequence and need for compensation, but even with the few bumps that it has, the game fares very, very well. The fusion of intense speed with novel track design has meant, not dicey pacing and consistency, but instead, incredible motion and direction, with the game ripening as you gain mastery over its schemes. When it all erupts, there’s nothing like it on the platform.
AiRace Speed, by QubicGames, is out now for 3DS eShop.