The game could benefit from a touch more content, but what's included is enough to channel a hearty does of nostalgia from a variety of late 90's arcade racers.
The more we played SkyDrift, the more we came to the conclusion that its like Hyrdo Thunder in the sky. Hydro Thunder crossed with Mario Kart to be precise.
Despite popping onto PlayStation Network with little more than a press release to confirm its launch, SkyDrift definitely deserves much more attention than its getting. It's a speedy, attractive and, most importantly, enjoyable airborne racer that sees you competing in sky-bound Grand Prixs against a variety of unique aeroplane archetypes.
Don't let the game's splash image fool you. It might look like the driest flight simulator since the one Microsoft released for Windows 95, but this is an all-out action arcade racer instead. "If you can't overtake them," so the game's mantra goes, "Shoot them."
And shoot them you will, with a variety of power-ups scattered across each and every aerial race-track. Rockets, machine guns, mines and more all make up the game's arsenal — with each offensive weapon having a defensive alternative. You'll need to learn the power-ups in order to compete, adapting your strategy depending on your position in the pack. By allowing you to carry two different power-ups at once, SkyDrift gives you the option to make tactical decisions about your arsenal.
The game is hinged on the ideals of risk/reward. For example you can absorb power-ups for additional boost, or stock them until they come in necessary. What's more, reckless driving — such as hugging the ground — rewards you with boost, but also increases the possibility of a crash. Whether you decide to play it safe and sacrifice boost is up to you.
If you choose to stock your power-ups, you might get the opportunity to level them up. Collecting two or more of the same power-up significantly ups its power, adding further depth to the game's combat mechanics.
But despite the depth of the game's mechanics, SkyDrift is actually a rather simple game to play. Pitching your plane can be done easily with the left analogue stick, with the right analogue stick being used to push your plane more sharply around corners. The track design includes short-cuts for nifty pilots, allowing you to shuffle inbetween tight gaps by twisting your craft vertically, rewarding you with a well-deserved boost bonus for your efforts.
The game looks fantastic too. We referenced Hydro Thunder earlier in the review largely because SkyDrift has a similar look. Great canyons, huge waterfalls, splashing waves and blue skies. The game oozes late-90s arcade magic and has the soft-rock guitar soundtrack to back it up.
Sadly the game's a touch short on content, with just six tracks to choose from (reverse versions don't count) and a campaign that can be finished in a couple of hours. A host of unlocks, badges and medals afford the game some replay value, but we would have preferred a couple more tracks and aircrafts to keep things feeling fresh.
A multiplayer component helps to flesh out the package, but, as with many multiplayer PSN titles, we found a disappointing number of players participating. When you can get into a game the action is fun and efficient, but without a ranking mechanic it can feel a touch bare-bones.
But quibbles aside, SkyDrift is an intense and enjoyable arcade racer. If you're the type of player that can't get enough arcade racing action, you'll want to pick this up immediately.