Posted by Dave Letcavage
Doesn't soar, but not quite a bore
SKYPEACE is a stage-based runner that finds you surfing it up in the in the sky, high above the clouds. As runners generally go, players will be aiming for a high score by collecting as many coins and significant pickups as they can, while avoiding incoming obstacles. Existing in a genre that overpopulates the marketplaces of our mobile phones and gaming consoles, is there a good enough reason to add SKYPEACE to your 3DS library? Well, thanks in part to a budget price point, there might be.
When first reaching the title screen, we were a bit surprised by the sharpness of the presentation. There aren’t any cinematic sequences, nor is there all that much to look at, but the anime character art is of high quality, and the music is pleasant. The stereoscopic 3D is even implemented well, which, during gameplay, offers a pronounced and crisp sense of depth between the action layer and the background. Basically, SKYPEACE looks and sounds better than the price of admission might suggest, even if it's not traditionally impressive.
Having the option to choose between a male and female character — named Surf and Pure, respectively — is something else we were surprised by. There aren't any play differences between the two, but providing gender options is something we know will be appreciated by most. Once you've made your selection, it's off to the tutorial stage to get acquainted with the game's controls, which likely aren't what you'd expect.
Instead of being able to move your character freely around the screen, or being limited to vertical movement like in Bird Mania 3D, SKYPEACE does things a little differently. On the left side of the screen, imagine a 3 x 3 grid with your character in the centre space — by holding the D-pad or Circle Pad in the desired direction, you can shift to the eight surrounding spaces, always resetting to the middle when letting go. The tutorial stage will walk you through this process with the aforementioned grid in place, and it’s very easy to understand and control.
Simply making it to the end of each stage without emptying your life bar will unlock the subsequent stage; there are ten in total, and they’re pretty much a breeze if survival is your only goal. The real challenge comes when aiming for an S ranking by collecting coins, increasing the score multiplier, and nabbing all treasure items. Not only will colliding with an enemy deplete a bit of health, but it will also reset your multiplier/combo, destroying your hi-scoring chances.
With each new stage you'll see very minor changes in scenery; mostly the time of day is all that's different. As far as obstacles and level design go, you will be introduced to new enemy types every couple stages, but for the most part it feels like the same kind of patterns, but reorganized. Since you'll be so busy navigating the treacherous skyscapes, this doesn't detract too much from the solid gameplay, but it does keep SKYPEACE from being memorable. Ultimately, if you're interested in this one, be sure that replaying the same ten familiar stages sounds bearable to you.
It took us a little over an hour to earn A-rankings on every stage, but not once in that time were we bestowed with an S-ranking. It's going to take work to see the elusive letter grade and, if you're a perfectionist, that's what will keep you playing since there aren't any leaderboards. Completionists will be happy to know that there are also 50 achievements to unlock if more incentive is needed to stick with it. These are things like beating a stage without taking a hit or collecting a target number of coins. We didn't feel any compulsion to continue chasing after all of the achievements but it's a nice, simple inclusion to extend the life of what is arguably a short game.
Does the budget pricing match the amount of content? Yeah, we'd say it does. It's not common for a game to come along that performs well and costs less than a pack of gum; yet even though the presentation is charming and the gameplay is reliable, SKYPEACE isn't particularly exciting or interesting, and we didn't feel the urge to keep returning for more after mastering all stages. An endless mode would've gone a long way, and it's kind of surprising that the developer didn't add one.
SKYPEACE doesn't really do anything wrong, but it doesn't stand out either. With competent gameplay and a welcoming presentation, there is a fairly enjoyable time to be had chasing hi-scores; our concern is with how long the familiarity will hold your attention. Luckily, if you're at all interested, this is a game that's easy to take a chance on considering its low-as-they-come price point. While SKYPEACE might not have completely won us over, that's not to say you won't get more than your money's worth. Even if you don't, the letdown should be peaceful enough.