SkyDrift Reader Review
SkyDrift seems to hail from the future. But not the future of today, the future of some coin-op laden past.
Diving through its twisted narrow canyons and the rusted hulks of its shipwrecks creates an eerie sense of not quite déjà vu.
It seems to fulfill the promise first offered by something like mid 90s multiplatform air racer Gee Bee Rally but through the eyes of a Dreamcast era Sega or Capcom, still on top of their game and keen for seaside 50 pence pieces.
Mechanically, SkyDrift takes a risky decision in combining Crimson Skies styled aerodynamically unlikely and often ever so slightly unwieldy piston engined planes with dense and convoluted maps.
The races themselves cover the basics of MarioKart style weapons races, F Zero-alike boost pad only sprints and Last Man Standing timed knockouts, but as with the fiercely competitive arcade racers of old, the differences fall to the subtleties of implementation;
Respawns upon collision or destruction by weapons are swift through necessity and the complexities offered by the stunt and steep bank mechanics, boost power rewards for dangerous flying and powering up and creative use of the basic weapons set means there's that coin-op spark of accessibility combined with depth for those willing to invest their time.
What's more, the campaign mode AI seems to have a knack for human mimicking viciousness and vindictiveness, meaning that the time spent unlocking the various and genuinely varied tracks and aircraft passes swiftly and the breadcrumb-like dropping of micro-achievements for in game activity ensure the steady drip-drip of seratonin.
The maps themselves seem to have been lavished with an attention to detail profoundly unusual for a download title and rich with colours from the entire spectrum, reinforcing that satisfying Blue Skies feeling.
They run the traditional gamut of fire, ice, lush greens, deep blue waters and twisted grey industrial complexes and are sufficiently large and stuffed with shortcuts and alternate routes that when the inevitable Reverse tracks appear, they feel very far from the cop-out that can so often be the case.
The online multiplayer implementation seems to offer only the same basic options as single player, only with human beings as opponents, however a swift glance at the Achievement Points reveals that this is where the developers expect the title's longevity to lie.
What a shame, then, that as of the authoring of this review, the low key launch has resulted in empty lobbies and tumbleweed blown levels.
As our arcades lie dusty and empty or converted into Pound stores, SkyDrift represents a tiny glimpse of a future that might've been, if the Dreamcast had survived or Yu Suzuki had continued to build sequels to PowerDrift and Afterburner and it seems a bitter irony that such a lovingly crafted bite of arcadia should arrive without fanfare, cast no ripples across our gaming pond and seem to sink instantly without a trace.