What do you get when you put Crimson Skies, Blur and a little Mario Kart in a blender? You get SkyDrift, the new power-up based racing game made by Digital Reality released on XBLA. While your focus is speed and completing the race in the best position possible, the motto goes if you can't overtake them, shoot them down!, so youll need to use all the power-ups and weaponry at your disposal should you want to win.
For a XBLA game its got a surprising amount of content included. More than 30 race events (including mirrored and separate events), 8 different planes with unlockable skins, 6 power-ups, multiple singleplayer modes, 8 players online and more. It looks great and the controls are simple enough to get used to quite quickly.
Your Left Stick moves your plane, Left Trigger is brake, Right Trigger is accelerate and Right Stick will turn your plane sideways which is called the Knife Edge position. This will help you turn tighter and make hairpin turns. One thing to remember though is that the controls dont change when your plane is sideways, so you still need to use Right on both sticks if you want to turn sharply to the right, not pulling back when the left stick like how most flying sims would have you do. X will use your power-up, Y will swap if you have two and you can even convert your power-up into some boost meter if you dont find the power-up useful enough to use at the time.
You gain boost by flying low to the ground (the flying version of Burnouts oncoming traffic lane), destroying enemies or doing stunts. There are six types of power-ups; some defensive while others to help you destroy your enemies. There are homing missiles (completely overpowered), mines, turrets, shockwaves, repairs and shield power-ups. Have two of the same power-up simultaneously though and it becomes a much more powerful version and can instantly change the course of the race. The only issue I found was that you have to be very precise when flying through the power-ups though to obtain them, there isnt much room for error.
Much like any racer, youll start out with your basic start panes and as you win competitions and progress youll gain access to the more exotic and unique planes and skins. Each plane has their own stats and some are better suited for specific situations or events. I found I did better when I played aggressive and more as a shooter than I did simply by racing, but this may be the exact opposite for yourself.
If youve tried the demo, it doesnt do the games level design justice. The later levels you unlock are so intensely fun to fly that youll enjoy having to Knife Edge to make it in between pillars and down into some hidden areas that contain power-ups. The lack of maps is made up by the level design. Surprisingly I had the most fun with the Speed Race mode where there are no power-ups and you gain a short boost as you finesse your way through the rings on the course. Survivor is also frantic that has the person in last place at set intervals knocked out of the race until only one plane survives.
While it is a flying racer, it had a very Hydro Thunder feel to the world which is fantastic. The engine ran smooth, no slowdown in races, textures looked great whizzing by and power-ups felt useful (especially being able to convert them into boost when needed). And yes, barrel rolls are included. Now go try it out! Its a simple yet fun arcade style racer that shouldnt be passed up if youve been yearning for something Mario Kart-esque or want to remember how fun Crimson Skies was in a way. At 1200 points it seems a little steep but if youre a fan of the power-up racers youll thoroughly enjoy it.