Review: SkyDrift (XBLA)

Review: SkyDrift (XBLA)

To quote Digital Reality, developer of SkyDrift: “The goal is simple: if you can’t overtake them, shoot them down!” That line epitomizes SkyDrift’s attitude and gameplay almost perfectly. What you have here is more than just an aerial arcade racer. What you have here is an aerial arcade racer with power-ups. Do you remember playing Pilot Wings on your Nintendo 64 after a rousing Mario Kart 64 tournament and wishing you could toss some shells or drop some bananas on other pilots? If so, SkyDrift is what you’ve been waiting for.

The most important thing in an aerial game of any kind has to be the game’s flight mechanic. If you’ve got a game where flight is the main control mechanic, and that main control mechanic is flawed or broken, it doesn’t matter how mindblowingly amazing the rest of the game’s features are; it still ends up being a flat out bad game. Thankfully, the flight mechanic in SkyDrift is very good. For the most part, flight is controlled with the left joystick with standard inverted flight controls (up for diving, down for climbing, left for banking left, and right for banking right). When you get to a particularly hard turn, however, you can use the right joystick to take your plane vertical, like a knife. When you do this, your turns become much tighter, allowing you to keep your speed up even through a twisty course. Now, I said course. This is not really an open world flight experience. Well, this isn’t AT ALL an open world flight experience. You are racing along a defined course with defined boundaries. This limits the acrobatic nature of flying a little. Barrel rolls, while present, are not terribly useful, pretty, or convenient to execute. Loops are non-existent. Aside from wishing that SkyDrift would let me pull a StarFox barrel roll, the flight mechanic is top notch.

So now that we know the core element of the game is solid, how about the added element of power-ups? Are they convenient? Are they relevant? Are they varied? Do they work well? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Power-ups are placed along the course in much the same way as they are in Mario Kart or Blur. You fly through a power-up and you pick it up. You fly through a second, different power-up, and you pick it up as well. You fly through a second, identical power-up, and you upgrade the power-up you have in inventory. From shields and repair kits to lock-on missles and electric shock waves and more, there are quite a few power-ups for quite a few different situations. Do you have a bogey on your tail launching a missile at you? Raise a shield power-up to absorb the damage. Want to take out two birds with one stone if they’re close enough? Fire off an electric shock wave to disable the missile and damage your opponent. Want to do a flyby?

Negative, the pattern is full.

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The game is sufficiently attractive, both visually and aurally to end up distracting you at times, resulting in more than a few crashes. The campaign mode and online multiplayer both play the same, with the major difference being the minds behind your opponent planes. Local split-screen does not exist, unfortunately, which would have made this game that much better. There’s something about flying in games that makes me lean to the left or right when I bank, and I think sitting on a couch with my friends while we all do the same thing would be a lot of fun. For 1200 MSP, the single player mode is fairly short, but does contain unlockable content to capture and multiple difficulties to attempt, while the online multiplayer provides a constant aerial arena to challenge yourself with.


Great flight mechanic
Great power-up elements
Lots of fun
Barrel rolls aren't perfect 🙁
No local split-screen
90 out of 100
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