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For: DSi

Flying high

Product: AiRace | Developer: NoWay Studio | Publisher: Qubic Games | Format: DSi | Genre: Arcade | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
AiRace DSi, thumbnail 1
Sometimes DS developers implement touchscreen controls when they really aren't necessary.

Certain controls don't map well with a stylus-based approach, and leave you wondering why the developer didn't just plump for a button-based scheme.

It's as if they feel that they have to use the touchscreen, even if it produces bizarre results that ruin an otherwise perfectly reasonable concept.

At first glance, AiRace's flight-by-stylus controls just should not work. It appears to be a classic button job.

Yet soaring with the touchscreen as your control stick is fantastic. Not only that, but QubicGames has lined AiRace's seams with a real sense of speed and some great level design.

Flight of fancy

The game puts you at the helm of a winged wonder, ready to fight for first place in a race above and around the rooftops.

The touchscreen tells your aircraft which way to duck and weave, while the DS buttons control the acceleration, brake, and power-ups.

Initially, the control scheme feels a little awkward, and you'll spend the first few races saying hello to the walls and floor too often. Yet a few races in, suddenly it all makes perfect sense and your ship begins to bank around corners with ease.

The simplicity kicks in, and you're left with something that feels superb.

The buttons can be used to turn your ship on its side, banking flawlessly around corners and making you seem like an airborne pro. You really get the feeling QubicGames has put a huge amount of care into how the game works.

Speed demon

The nigh-on perfect control scheme is helped along by a wonderful sense of speed. You're only given access to slower, rickety craft to begin with, allowing you to master the art of flight.

Once you begin to purchase the more nimble planes, however, AiRace really shines. Upgrades can be bought to bump up your stats, and eventually new,  speedier ships will be yours.

Each level whizzes by, your ship pelting through tunnels and under bridges. QubicGames wants you to feel the rush - and feel it you will.

The main body of the game is the Championship mode, set over three classes with five tournaments in each.

The competitions are made up of five tracks, which sounds like a relatively small figure for a racing game. Yet as a wise man once said, it's quality, not quantity, and the levels on offer here are definitely the former.

Each has its own landscape theme, and is full of sneaky shortcuts. The majority are displayed on the topscreen map, but there are also several which aren't mapped and must be found without any guidance.

The five levels have been created to work backwards, too, putting a whole new light on a track you thought you'd learnt.

The tracks are filtered into your system slowly, without the action ever feeling repetitive. You won't have seen all five tracks until around two hours into play.

Pick-up and soar

Scattered around each level are power-ups for getting the edge over the competition.

They're a little throwaway, given the lack of variety. There are missiles for taking down opposition planes, and a shield for protecting yourself. Boosts give you a temporary rush, while the oil spillage is an anti-pickup, throwing black mess all over your screen and blocking your vision.

Mario Kart this ain't, and eventually you'll give up on grabbing anything and just concentrate on racing.

AiRace also borrows from another Nintendo classic, with F Zero-like fuel strips at certain points around the track. Having a fuel gauge seems like an odd design choice, but it does give the experience extra personality, and it doesn't ruin the overall feel, so we'll let it slide.

Besides the main event, there are a number of special bonus stages which definitely deserve a mention.

With time on the clock, your task is to fly through a bunch of rings before the finishing klaxon sounds. It's challenging stuff, with near-perfect weaves and braking needed to secure the lot.

Exits here, here, and here

The single player is excellent, with tons of races to play through and challenges to beat.

In comparison, the multiplayer is rather disappointing. There's no wi-fi racing available, with only local wireless for challenging your friends. And each player needs to have a copy of the game, with no download play in sight.

Still, this is a small thorn in a beautiful DSi-gaming rose. If you've got a Nintendo DSi, this is essential point-expenditure.

Not only is AiRace the best racing game for DSiWare - it's also the best DSiWare game to date.
Reviewer photo
Mike Rose | 31 May 2010
The best DSiWare game yet, AiRace combines a great control scheme with pure speed to create a first-class flight
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