The following software was reviewed on an Xbox Series X console.
There are some genres of games that you can never have enough of, and one of those happens to be racing. Cars, karts, boats, horses—you name it—can be retrofitted into a genre as old as time itself. This time we are going to fly arcadey planes in SkyDrift Infinity, a remaster of the 2011 SkyDrift on Xbox Live Arcade (“XBLA”). Short of being ten years old now, SkyDrift Infinity holds up very well for an XBLA title of yore and will be a great addition to anyone’s racing game collection on Xbox.
SkyDrift’s gameplay loop can be deciphered right from its name: it is all about drifting in the sky. Well not quite; there is drifting in the sky, but you will also be flying through twists and turns, occasionally explosive environments, and AI slash real opponents who will gladly chuck several thousand bullets and rockets at the most inopportune times. It is an arcade racer in the skies, offering a good selection of race modes, plane types and skins, and maps. Playing through the campaign gives the player an idea of what to expect from maps and modes, as well as a place to test how fast you can go before you go against players online or locally with three other people. There is no story campaign, so no need to brush up on SkyDrift lore—just pick up and play. With eight stages, each needs only a portion of the races within to be completed and can be done on difficulties easy, medium, and hard. Even better, you do not need to be first, just second and third is enough to qualify (and trust me, you have to try to give third place to the computer racers).
Playing the game is a blast. It is a game with no-nonsense and focuses on its select modes to a good degree. Power racing, for example, pits players against each other with power-up items that can be picked up over the course of the map. These can either be rockets that lock on to other players, a mini-gun that must be manually aimed, repairs slash shields, and bombs. Each power-up has its ups and downs, and nearly all of them can be countered making for less annoying races. There is also speed racing, which focuses entirely on speed and getting first place, as well as a survivor mode which is all about making sure you are not in the last place when the timer runs out.
The maps are fairly good. They are not bad, per se, but they can be hard to navigate at times. Though the game places arrows everywhere to make sure you do not veer off track, sometimes that is inevitable in a game of flying versus land vehicles. Obstacles are mainly rocks, some hard turns, and occasionally a tower might explode, but I do not mind this as too many stage hazards just is not my thing when other players can chuck rockets at you often. The number of tracks is also on the low side, with reverse stages taking up the other half of the list. But I thought they were varied enough to fit the game’s fifteen-dollar price point well.
There are plenty of planes to choose from, each with a different focus. Some might weather against power-ups better, some might handle turns better, and some are all about speed. There are also plenty of skins to choose from (such as some wicked Darksiders vinyls!), all unlockable through the campaign or a specific challenge. Personally speaking, I am happy with the different play styles the planes offer, but I never found a reason to choose a plane that did not have a maxed-out speed stat. Most of the time you can dodge a lot of power-ups anyway, and the game inserts you back fast enough that I had no reason to jump to the tankier or better-handling planes. Still, it is not impossible to win races with the others, but I think having the game would have been better off had it made all plane types equal and instead focus on skill.
SkyDrift Infinity does not offer much in the way of customization for controls nor does it offer visual assistance options. Game difficulty can be tuned before a race if necessary, and players simply need to be in third place or greater to advance. There are plenty of language options that can be selected from the menu, including English, Dutch, French, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Brazilian Portuguese. This will only change the user interface language and not the announcer, but the latter is not necessary for the enjoyment of the game.
SkyDrift Infinity is not a looker by today’s standards, or honestly even for its time. But the 60 FPS gameplay is all you need, and it excels in that with flying colours on the Xbox Series X. If you put this game into an arcade cabinet at Chuck-E-Cheese, it would fit like a glove. I found the local co-op experience to be great, but sadly I could not test out the online experience as I never found another player in the few times I started the mode. But because SkyDrift excels at being a fun flying-themed arcade racer, I am happy to have it in my collection of co-op racers on my Xbox. What was once a genre with so many kinds of racers has died off in the years of the Xbox One, so even if SkyDrift Infinity is a remaster of a ten-year-old game, I think it is worth flying for.
- Strong controls and gameplay mechanics make for a fun arcade racer.
- Plenty of planes and skins to choose from, and enough maps for the price point.
- Great local co-op experience makes this a racer worth having.
- Some maps can be a little confusing to navigate at times.
- Planes may have different stats, but choosing anything other than the speedy planes is not really worth it.