Game review by Steve Cullum
Game – AiRace Xeno
Version – 3DS 3Shop
Rating – E for Everyone
Original Price – $2.49
Obtained – Review Copy from QubicGames
Last September, we reviewed AiRace Speed, a solid high-speed space racer for Nintendo 3DS. The direct sequel, AiRace Xeno is now here with a few more challenging stages. We really liked Speed, so we went into this review with high expectations. What was the outcome? Let’s discuss.
As I stated, Xeno is a direct sequel, and it follows the same premise as Speed. Your objective is to fly one of three ships as fast as you can, avoiding all obstacles along the way. There is no story or plot involved. Instead, your goal is to get fast times, but also obtain all 21 achievements. Examples include completing one full lap without crashing, flying 15 seconds with the nitro engaged, crash 500 times, and fly more than 100 miles. For the most part, you will gradually achieve these as you play the game, which is rather unfortunate. It would have been nice to have some random achievements that cause you to go back and play each level in a different way (i.e. Complete an entire level while flying sideways).
Speaking of levels, let’s talk size. While Speed had 18 courses, Xeno has only nine. The good thing is that Xeno will also cost you less money. Of those nine courses, you will find even more challenge than you did in Speed. The turns seem tighter, and the speed is even faster. While I got through the first several courses in Speed fairly easily, I struggled with the first ones in Xeno. So, if you are looking for a challenge, this game has it. I don’t know if they are, but the courses also seem a bit longer, so this does somewhat make up for only having nine of them. When you do complete a level, you can check out how you did against your friends and others in the online leader-boards. I am so glad they kept these, as they add to the replay value. Just when you think you did a great job, you see you still have several others who have completed it faster.
Again, just like Speed, Xeno keeps the controls simple. You will control your aircraft in a third-person view with the Circle Pad, Control Pad, or stylus. When using buttons, the A button gives you a constant nitro boost, while the B button puts on the brakes. The L and R bumpers will let you roll your jet to each side. If you are using stylus controls, nitro moves to L, R, and X, rolling is mapped to left/right and Y/A, and the brakes are on down and B. While that might seem confusing at first glance, you can trust me that the controls are simple, which is a very good thing. The simplicity helps you focus on perfecting your flying instead of learning complicated controls. Both styles work really well, but I prefer the Circle Pad over stylus.
As stated a few times before, your goal is to achieve maximum speed. There are a few check-points along the way, so if you crash, you can respawn. Although, each crash will add a three-second time penalty on your overall time. If you do not think it is worth it, you can restart the entire track very quickly. In fact, that is another positive element of speed in the game. There are basically no load times. If you want to restart a track, you will be right back at the beginning in no time.
Xeno’s shadows and textures look very good in both 2D and 3D. There is something to keep in mind, though. The game looks much better in 3D. In fact, it allows full submersion within the game, as you really get the feel of flying through these tunnels at a high speed. Unfortunately, though, as with many racing games, you might have a tendency to turn your 3DS or move it slightly as you speed through the tracks. When you do this, the 3D does go in and out of focus, which can cause you to crash. If you race in 2D, this problem goes away, but it is harder to tell depth. So, I recommend trying to stay as still as possible, and play it in 3D. There are a few bits of information on both screens, as to provide you with your time, progression, and health, but you will not find yourself looking at that, because you want to keep both eyes on the path ahead.
The music and sound for Xeno fit very well. The music is a collection of darker, electronic, techno tunes that make you feel as if you are in space — similar to a game like Metroid. You may not get the same eerie feeling of solitude, but there is a similarity in the style. All the sound effects are top-notch, as they complement the music to create a feeling of flying through these tunnels at high speeds. While the 3DS speakers do a good job, I highly recommend grabbing a pair of headphones while playing Xeno for full immersion.
Unfortunately, though, it seems like the developers did not put much effort into updating some basic elements from the game’s predecessor. For example, the opening video sequence is pretty much the exact same one from Speed. While this does not have a negative effect gameplay in any way, as the rest of the game feels new, it does seem like they just forgot about it. With that being said, Xeno feels more like an expansion pack for Speed more than anything else. They could have just as easily released these nine levels as a DLC pack. However, I can also see why they did it this way. Offering them separately does allow players to pay a little less and get a quality game, and if they like it, they can go get Speed later.
Xeno is not perfect. There are a few minor negatives, but they are exactly that — minor, in the middle of a fantastically designed game. Speed was great, and Xeno follows in its footsteps. If you have a need for speed and challenge, you definitely will enjoy AiRace Xeno.
Final Score: 9 out of 10
+ Simple controls.
+ Immersive 3D graphics and sound.
+ Online leaderboards that don’t take forever to refresh.
+ Fairly inexpensive.
– Only nine tracks and three jets.
– Feels more like an expansion-pack.