There's always the temptation to be a bit snobbish about games that are ported to traditional consoles from smartphones. Given the enormous success of "casual" experiences on mobiles, many dedicated gamers view even the best titles as vapid, shallow experiences — a perspective which is reinforced by the hordes of clones and rip-offs which plague smartphone app stores.
So when Gamelion proudly states that SpeedX 3D has sold in excess of 10 million units across Symbian and Android, it perhaps doesn't generate the kind of amazement they were expecting from sceptical 3DS owners. However, after spending a few minutes in the company of this fast-paced piece of software, excitement levels are bound to rise steadily — this port is arguably far superior to the mobile originals from which it was spawned.
Don't expect any kind of plotting or story with SpeedX 3D — all you need to know is that you're dashing down a tunnel and need to avoid oncoming obstacles. These take the form of square blocks, pyramids and columns, some of which seem to have a life of their own and move around the landscape, presenting an even sterner challenge to the player. You can spot when these hazards are about to appear, as a coloured trail appears on the floor of the tunnel, giving you enough warning to move out of the way.
The act of hurtling into the unknown is exhilarating in itself, and SpeedX 3D does a great job of creating the sensation of pace and acceleration. It also possesses a mischievousness tendency to mix things up; at certain points you'll notice that the tunnel splits along one side, opening itself up to become a flat landscape. At other times, it goes in the opposite direction and inverts the tunnel completely, creating a tube along which you continue to race along at breakneck speed — a similar situation to the one witnessed in the N64 classic, F-Zero X.
Along the way, you'll spot special tiles on the floor which offer up bonus items and shield power-ups. The former come in different varieties, the most useful of which is an earthquakes which destroys all on-screen obstacles, giving you a temporary breather. You'll also cross lines in the course which trigger events, such as Gravity Well (which makes it harder to control your movements) and a black out (which inverts the colour of the tunnel). Your shield can be charged through four levels, each of which is good enough to absorb a single collision. Even if you're savvy enough to avoid hitting anything, your shield gauge slowly depletes over time, so you'll need to make sure you keep gliding over the shield pads to keep yourself fully stocked up.
Visually, SpeedX 3D is pretty humble. The 3D graphics are quite basic, and suffer from a short draw distance. The twisting nature of the tunnel means that this is disguised quite well, but there are times when you can actually see the track being rendered in front of you, and objects suddenly loom out of nowhere — especially when the course begins to undulate wildly. Another downside is the frame rate, which feels like it could be a lot smoother. When there are a lot of objects on-screen simultaneously things can become a tad jerky, but thankfully it's never dramatic enough to throw you off your game or impede your progress.
While the core graphics could be improved, the use of 3D is beyond reproach. It might sound like an exaggeration, but SpeedX 3D is one of the most effective uses of the 3DS' auto-stereoscopic screen that we've seen so far. The sense of depth is truly striking, and contributes enormously to the game's impression of speed. Dashing in-between the various on-screen objects is genuinely thrilling, and there's a tangible buzz to be had when you narrowly avoid impact after impact.
While the 3D improves immeasurably on the original mobile version, it's perhaps the controls which prove to be the biggest enhancement. The smartphone editions utilised a motion-based control system, which worked well to a point but lacked the precision required for some of the more challenging levels. On 3DS the tilt mode remains in place, but it's wisely not configured as the default control method — that honour goes to the circle pad. This interface is far superior to tilt control and lends the player a more convincing degree of command over their movement.
With multiple game modes — each of which offer a slightly different perspective on the same basic gameplay concept — as well as selectable difficulty, SpeedX 3D is equipped with enough variety to keep you coming back for more. The allure of beating your best scores in each of the modes maintains your interest, although it would have been nice to have the ability to share your best achievements with other players online.
Before we wrap up, a special mention should also go to the hypnotic music, which suits the trance-like nature of the gameplay down to the ground. The tunes aren't what you'd call memorable, but they fit the on-screen action like a glove.
SpeedX 3D is proof that quality games are quality games, no matter what their origin happens to be. Although the frame rate could be better, the impression of depth and speed is amazing, and the use of 3D incredibly effective. To top it all off, the inclusion of traditional pad control means that this version of SpeedX 3D is more intuitive and enjoyable than its mobile forerunners — in fact, it's quite possibly the best iteration of the game yet seen, and a highly recommended download for your 3DS.