"You are the first now."
I heard this many times because I am, one, quite lovely, and two, it's what the announcer often says whilst moving into first place. I don't know why, but I love it in the same way I love "A winner is you." You are probably reading this little tidbit and saying, "that's nice and all, but you have yet to mention the actual game." That which I speak of is the surprisingly fun SkyDrift. I wasn't surprised due to low expectations, but thanks to a sour initial impression. I may have been in a poor mindset initially, but after a few races, I found myself hours into the future, riding a time machine of fun.
My initial impression was poor because SkyDrift lacks the charm and style that would otherwise grab my attention. It's not that the game looks bad—it is actually quite beautiful—it just has no defining style that would stick out in a crowd. But as previously stated, the visuals are rather good and the courses are varied—such themes as snow, forest, desert, and what you'd expect—and full of wonderful particle effects and environmental hazards. The game looks great, I just wish it had more style to set it apart.
Visuals are worthless in a game that doesn't play well and thankfully, SkyDrift has solid controls and distinct vehicles. SkyDrift, for the unaware, is a combat racing game in the, wait for it, sky. There are eight different planes and they all have a unique feel and control. Some combat racers tend to features vehicles that differ only in appearance—which I personally hate—but planes here can differ quite heavily and I appreciate it. A super-fast plane with poor maneuverability will control significantly different than a slower, more maneuverable plane. And if you're someone who wants variety from a purely aesthetic position, each plane does feature four different skins, of which only one is unlocked from the start.
All this chit-chat about planes and controls and I have yet to mention the combat. Well, the combat is satisfying with a decent, not great, variety of power-ups. There is nothing that hasn't been seen before or vehicle-unique power-ups, but what's there—such as missiles, mines, and shields—all do what they're supposed to do and add an extra layer of challenge. Best of all, there is no last place "this will destroy everyone in front of me and completely take away everyone's positive momentum" kind of power-up. That last sentence was a mouthful, but the lack of such a game-changing power-up is quite refreshing.
So what do you do with all this flying and combat? You race in one of three type of events (obviously): Power Race, Speed Race, and Survivor. The 'Power Race' is the most common event—the standard racing with power-ups mode. "Speed Race," however, removes power-ups in favor of boost rings, which tests one's flying and maneuverability. And last but not least, we have 'Survivor,' or more commonly known as 'Elimination,' in which the person in last place is constantly removed over a period of time until only one remains. All three events are enjoyable in their own way and do a good job of mixing up the gameplay if nothing else.
Speaking of unlockables and all that jazz, SkyDrift contains a fairly sizable amount of content with a meaty solo campaign, medals and badges to unlock, and a decent multiplayer offering; however, the multiplayer is online-only and lacks a sizable community, making it extremely hard to find a match. It would have been nice to see local multiplayer, but at least the campaign is fun and the difficulty never feels cheap or out to get you. And in addition to everything mentioned, the game features extensive leaderboards for both solo and multiplayer. I left SkyDrift satisfied with my experience and was pleasantly surprised. The game was never on my radar and may never have reached yours, but in my opinion, it has every right to make a blip. If the 1200MS points price tag scares you off, I can safely say there's plenty of bang for your buck, especially if you enjoy one-hundred percenting a game.
SkyDrift (1200MS Points/$14.99 -- Also available on PSN)