• Gameplay
  • Presentation
  • Graphics
  • Soundtrack

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AiRace Speed is a tiny, downloadable 3DS racer that came out a few days ago. While it certainly melts faces with its speed, it’s far from perfect – a tiny price for an appropriately-sized game. You guide your mega, super laser jet vehicle through the various courses in a time trials-only scenario and, well, that’s about it. Best-case scenario, it is concentrated; worst-case, it’s skimpy.

That being said, it’s a fun time that honest-to-goodness lured me in to returning after I had ran through all the levels. AiRace is a genre piece for sure, but one that delivers great bursts of short gameplay. Let’s see what’s under the hood.

Hits

Lookin’ Lithe

If the screens and video didn’t make it apparent, AiRace looks splendid in motion. Graphically, it has a generic-if-not-impressive look of F-Zero or Extreme-G from the old days. Compact and neatly put on to your 3DS, it is impressive on the whole. The colorful levels are varied enough and there was zero slowdown or chop.

Moreover, it gives that sense of speed you should expect. With the 3D on – something I usually never suggest – it kicks. Not only does it look fantastic, it makes it all easier to play, really giving you a keener sense of spatial relativity. So, huge points there for making the system’s namesake a functional, desirable feature.

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Concentrated Design

To an extent, I love how streamlined and focused the game is. On a small budget, asking for a small price, I really can’t hold the game’s limited scope too accountable. In other words, for what it is, AiRace Speed excels. While you’re just racing tracks, the game’s core design is very well executed. There was never a time where – like in a bunch of racing games – the upcoming obstacles were unclear or misleading.

Seriously, tangential gripe: Have you ever noticed how chevrons always point the other way from a distance in racing games until you get close? Luckily, here, the path is clear and marked.

Nostalgically Awesome Soundtrack

The most notable and enjoyable part of the game is the music, though. Oh, sweet Jiminy, I was a’rockin’ and a’rollin’ the whole time. It’s such a retro blast of overt, non-ironic video game techno that I just could not be brought down. It’s unabashed and fun like the aforementioned F-Zero or Extreme-G that I never had a bad time playing the game.

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Misses

Not Enough Varied Content

Obviously, I have a list of counter points. The largest is that – even though this is a cheap, value game – there is simply a drought of varied content. The entire game is you completing a stage, with no opponents or power-ups or even lap ghosts, under a time limit. At the end of the tree stage world, there is a longest-distance event to change it up. But still, alone and unvaried.

Feeling A Bit Bare

Along with this, the game sniffs of truncated development time. You can’t even change ship’s skins (they all behave identically; boost, brake, bank turn). The menus looks like they were ripped out of a late ’90s PC game; placeholders at best. The explosions are underwhelming, too, travesty amongst travesties.

To GO FAST Or To Simply Go?

Lastly, I had a rather fundamental problem to air. The game’s sense of speed is sublime, yes, but each wreck adds a time penalty to your score. So, to get a better time, you actually benefit from cautious flying. This is directly at odds with what the player wants to do – GOTTA GO FAST. There are times when the constricting tunnels open up and you are in a vast area, able to see the alternate paths of the track criss-crossing. It’s pretty and impressive and you can pick your target and just floor it.

I want more of this! While I rarely make cases for lowering the difficulty of games, the parts where you could boost and maneuver were simply much more fun than the parts of careful navigation.

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Recap

All in all, AiRace Speed is a really fun game, I mean it. I have been playing since I downloaded it, trying to three-star some levels I like. It gives you an impressive helping of speed and an over-abundance of thumping tunes. For its price, it’s not the completely-packed software you would be getting for a game six times its sticker cost, but what’s there is well-made and enjoyable.

AiRace Speed Review Platform: Nintendo 3DS