Let's clear something up - Digital Reality need to fire their publicist. Maybe it's a Hungarian thing to quietly release such a great game with hardly any press, but whoever is responsible for pushing SkyDrift to the masses is doing a cruddy job (check the cover art as an example) [*cough*downloadable game budgets*cough* - Ed.] And that's a shame, because SkyDrift is undoubtedly one of the most fun games you'll play this year.
There are fewer and fewer games these days that you can simply "drop in" for 10-15mins and simply chill out gaming to. But SkyDrift is so fundamentally geared towards re-playability that whenever I sit down to re-edit this review, I keep thinking "just one more race". Either that, or my flatmates, who are now hooked, will challenge me.
It's defiantly not about the campaign, oh no. Give yourself an hour to get a true grasp on the controls, another two or three to rock through the 7- stage, Arcade style missions, and your done. But the true joy comes when you get into racing other human opponents, or when a couple of days later you find yourself wanting to kill half an hour, and...
However, for all my gushing praise, this is not a perfect racer. The sound is fantastic, but this is a short game, and background music might just begging to grate if you and some friends sat in for the long haul. The steering can be clunky on some manoeuvres and, while re-spawning after a crash was quick enough, a slightly brutal AI kept shooting me down just when I was regaining my lead. Then again, as any Burnout fan will tell you, revenge is half the fun.
You don't have to shoot down your opponents to win the race - but it wouldn't be as much fun if you didn't (in some cases you'll need to do so to unlock achievements, if you care about such things). Fans of Mario Kart - or heck, even Death Race - will know the story here; there are several different types of power-ups along each course which can boost either attack, defence, or provide a much needed health refill.
Of course you may just crash because you're too busy looking at the scenery. SkyDrift is a beautiful game. The 7 tracks available (which are reversible) all have unique tropical settings (jungle, volcano, beachside, glaciers?) and on a decent HDTV the bright colours absolutely pop. The planes themselves - of which there are several unlockables - are simple, sleek, and can move violently fast through the courses. Several different designs for each plane can be unlocked as well.
There's been a lot of comparisons between SkyDrift and Wipeout - in fact it's how the game was pitched to me when I was given it. The thing is, Wipeout - and its sequels - while matching SkyDrift for fun, are quite different in style. In fact, I'd be more inclined to say that this is like the love child of Mario Kart and Crimson Skies. Crimson for visuals, and Mario for ridiculousness. In fact, any fan of Crimson Skies may have already got this game based on the similarities in box art [you've sold me - Ed.]
It sadly appears that, with little media coverage, SkyDrift may also become an under-selling "cult classic". However, for a 1200MSP downloadable game, you could do a lot worse. If you're still not sold, there's always the free trial version. My recommendation is to go in for that and see if this is your thing.
In a word, SkyDrift is Awesome. Not "Awesome" in the way Gears of War, Arkham City, or even Forza are Awesome. This is a game where any player will be able to see the love Digital Reality's developers must have had coming up with the idea:
"You know what would be awesome - flying planes round a tropical island!"
"Yeah - but with glaciers and jungle caverns, and we could all have planes - we could race!"
"Yeah, except we should be able to shoot each other too! And there can be mines in the middle of the air - and random powerups!"