If you’ve played AiRace: Speed, then you know what to expect, because AiRace: Xeno works the exact same way. But, if this is your first outing, you essentially do time trials on nine tracks with most of them having multiple laps with each lap having multiple checkpoints. If you crash anytime during the run, you’ll restart at the last checkpoint you passed, but you’ll get a three-second penalty for each crash, should you finish the run. Depending on your time, you might get a bronze, silver, or gold medal.
These medals are more than just a sign of how fast you can fly; they unlock more tracks. At the start of the game you have access to one track, but as long as you get at least a bronze medal you unlock the next track. After a couple of tracks, though, you’ll have to step up your game as silver medals will be required to open later tracks, and then you’ll have to start going for the gold for the final tracks.
You can control your ship by either the main buttons or by using the stylus on the touch screen. You can also use a boost and breaks as well as roll your ship to either side for tighter turns. If you want to succeed in this game, you have to master these controls and get used to either the buttons or stylus controls and boost through each track without fear of crashing. And you'll be crashing quite a bit at first.
If you have read my AiRace: Speed review, this will likely be more of the same with a few changes of opinion here and there. Otherwise, this game does have its ups and downs.
The controls aren’t that bad to get used to if you’re using the buttons, but if you use the stylus, you might want to spend a lot of time with them. Essentially, you use the touch pad to move the ship around on the upper screen, while A and Y roll your ship, X boosts, and B brakes. That’s fine, and surprisingly I got used to using the face buttons rather quickly (thank you, Kid Icarus: Uprising). But the problem is using the touch screen. Your ship moves rather quickly as you drag the stylus across the screen, and when you lift the stylus off the screen the controls will return to the center, so to speak. It’s not terrible, it just takes some getting used to. On top of that, the controls do feel a bit sensitive as it’s pretty easy to overshoot a turn. There have been several times I’ve tried to bank into a turn, realize I’m turning too quickly, then overcompensate when I try to correct myself.
Another thing to note is the difficulty. As stated, only nine courses are available, as opposed to close to double that in AiRace: Speed, but that’s made up for with the difficulty. In AiRace: Speed I was able to get a gold medal on the first couple of tracks after only a few times through. With AiRace: Xeno, it seems like the game expects you to play the prior game first, as if this is the second half of Speed. These courses seem a bit more difficult. As such, getting medals here can be a bit tedious and I’m hesitant to hold down the boost button for more than a few moments due to a fear of constantly slamming into things and racking up the penalties.
On the whole, it just feels like this is AiRace: Speed Part 2 more than anything else. Even looking at the achievements kind of proves this. Not only are they basically the same, one even forgets to change the name of the game from Speed to Xeno. I’m all for more of the same if it works, but even major franchises like Super Mario Bros. and Mega Man implemented changes here and there to keep things fresh. Going from Super Mario Bros. to Super Mario Bros. 2 (Lost Levels, not Doki Doki Panic), the games look similar and have the same gameplay to them, but SMB2 still implemented new things such as wind, poisonous mushrooms, and backwards warp zones. Going from AiRace: Speed to AiRace: Xeno--it’s literally the same game, just with different courses.
One strong point I like about this game is that since it’s all time trials, it can be played in short bursts. This makes it perfect for attempting a track or two before heading out to work or while on the bus, as each track takes roughly three to four minutes, depending on how heavy you lay on the boost. That also contributes to replayability a bit, as you won’t be getting golds the first time, every time, unless you’re a master at this game from the start. This means you’ll be playing through these stages over and over again to get a better time.
I did say that the difficulty seems higher in this game, which does make for a more challenging experience, so it’s not like you’ll just blow through this in an hour. You’ll have to go through each stage a few times to remember what’s where and to master your ship’s controls, then lay on the boost to get the best times. The game does sport online leaderboards and, as mentioned earlier, achievements, so if you’re looking to unlock everything in the game or want to see how you stack up against other players, you’ll get some enjoyment out of that.
If you haven’t played other AiRace games, then this one will likely keep you busy for a while, but veterans of the series who have already mastered the ship’s controls will be able to get through everything in about an hour or two. The good news, though, is that while this seems like it should be just DLC, it’s priced as such at just $2.49, so for that price you can’t really go wrong. Even still, I would have liked to see a couple new features or a few more tracks; nine just seems to short, even for $2.49. Overall, if you like these types of games and have a couple of dollars to spare, give this one a shot.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.