Air Race Speed. It's a terrible name, but an accurate one. This low-budget end-of-life PlayStation Vita release deployed just prior to the holidays, presumably winding its way to Sony's portable after struggling to set the smartphone sales charts alight. Despite its weedy price point and miserable moniker, though, this high-octane arcade racer is actually alright.
It's that titular sense of speed that makes this cheap and cheerful nitro-'em-up work well. While static screenshots of the outing look about as attractive as the aftermath of a festive curry, the title looks great in motion. Generally locked at 60 frames-per-second, the performance of this game is more important than the presentation – and it works.
You'll find yourself sprinting through tunnels and caves, attempting to avoid impending obstacles that often appear right under your nose. The developer uses every trick in the book to make you feel like you're moving with momentum: lights whiz by and tunnels tighten claustrophobically around your craft, with beams and other structural installations becoming a blur as you flash past.
What the game does especially well is provide a sense of progression as you work through its three sets of stages. Unlocking stars means that you'll gradually gain access to new vehicles, and while the title feels fast from the off, returning to the first craft several hours later will shock you with how sluggish it suddenly seems. You simply get used to the blistering pace.
While it is a racing game by definition, it's of the time attack type; there are no competing vehicles here, other than the best times of other players displayed on the release's disappointingly thin leaderboards. Most of the levels see you attempting to beat a lap target, but there are also endless stages and some more freeform environments which see you flying through rings.
A cleverly implemented Trophy system means that the slender running time is extended by the introduction of additional objectives and tasks, but you're still going to be done with this in several hours. That's okay, though, because the developer's priced the title appropriately; it's a great time waster, and is buoyed by swift loading times and short stages.
Air Race Speed is one of those pleasant surprises that never sets the world alight but yet still manages to thoroughly entertain. Rock-solid performance and a great sense of speed means that adrenaline junkies will enjoy this, and while it doesn't exactly threaten WipEout's speed freak crown, it should ease the wait for the Omega Collection next year.