During our run at PAX Prime 2011, we met up with a developer who had a little game out there for Xbox LIVE Arcade entitled SkyDrift. We took control of the Xbox 360 controller and began flying in what was at first glance, an airplane racing simulator for Red Bull. However, there was no Red Bull propaganda to be found. Jump forward a few weeks and we’ve had time to p lay with SkyDrift at home on a much larger screen than what was at the convention. As someone in the room said, this game is beautiful!
Digital Reality created an aerial combat game which could probably be best described as Super Mario Kart in the air. The campaign game starts off with a quick training race session to get you used to the controls of flying a combat racing aircraft. You will be able to pick your difficulty level of Easy, Medium, or Hard, your available aircraft, and after a quick load screen, you will be off and flying. As with anyone familiar with racing, your throttle is the right trigger and your brake is your left trigger. Pitch and roll will be adjusted with the left analog stick. Additionally, the tutorial will give you an idea on how your power-ups will work; more on those in a moment.
As you play through your campaign, and in multiplayer, there are six tracks you will be racing on: Lagoon, Heatwave, Avalanche, Petrol Coast, Wrecks, and The Dam. Each map has their own style and it is apparent that some tracks are a bit harder than others. And even then, because of the various race types on each map, you will play them in reverse as well, causing some that were easy to race one way, harder the other way. To make things spicy, Digital Reality also made sure that when you begin your race, you will be starting at different points along with also having some updated weather conditions, thus giving you lots of variety to the stock maps.
As you maneuver your plane around the maps, you will be confronted with various physical barriers that you can fly around it, avoid it altogether by taking a different route, or go right through it. The feel of whipping through an old oil field and dodging oil pipes and derricks is really fun. Some of the turns you have to take are that in which you will need to slow down a bit and even then you may have to use your right analog stick to move into “knife” position. This essentially gets your plane perpendicular to the ground allowing you to squeeze through smaller areas and to make sharper left and right turns. At this point you’re not really banking left or right, you are actually turning. This can take a little bit of getting used to, but once you get the feel of it, it can be a major factor in you winning the race or not.
To help you be the winner of the race, you are going to need to collect some power-ups. You will be able to fly through icons that represent a missile pack, gun pack, or shock pack to use offensively against your opponents. Defensively you can grab a shield icon and if need be a repair icon to get rid of that damage you’ve been inflicting on yourself by flying into the ground or taking damage from your competitors. To gain boost, you can just fly really well or as you fly closer to the ground, you will gain boost which is easily applied by using the left bumper. This is a big advantage in the game and having a good supply of it is something a responsible pilot should have at all times.
Because you will be flying a lot, you also get additional aircraft with various options when it comes to their abilities. Some places are slower, but boost faster, and others are faster and may even maneuver better, it all depends on what you think will need for the map and mode of race you will be playing. As you win races, you will also receive different skins you can apply to your plane, making it a nice way to show your personal style and just how far along in the campaign you have progressed.
At 1200 MSP, the game you will buy, download, and play is very addictive. It is something you can start up with your beverage of choice and play repeatedly for achievements or for just a relaxing race around an island while being chased by your friends. If the 1200 MSP price seems a bit steep, be sure to actually download the trial game first. Additionally, downloadable content has already been announced for the game, so getting bored with the stock maps isn’t going to be a problem.