First announced in 2015, this promising futuristic racing game's been on the horizon for quite a while. Having seen its fair share of delays, it's now finally here. But has it proven worth the wait?
Lifespeed wastes no time getting down to brass tacks, as after booting it up and reaching the main menu you'll be presented with only a few choices - story, single race and championship (well, and options). It's recommended to play at least part of the story mode first, as it simultaneously serves as a tutorial; perhaps annoyingly, the game has no actual tutorial mode or even a digital manual to review controls and features. Each mode allows you to pick one out of four difficulty levels for the AI-controlled racers.
The game's story mode is neatly told with a comic book style, though it struggles to be particularly engaging, which is why it's a bit of a frustration that cutscenes can't be skipped during your first playthrough. Before (almost) every race in the story mode the game will teach you a few game mechanics or controls, though only in text/image form, so be sure to pay attention.
Once you've finally reached a race you'll quickly discover that Lifespeed's a bit unique compared to most racers out there. While it's a futuristic game with floating cars quite similar to F-Zero, vehicles are not limited to only driving on - err, above the ground. They can freely move around through the air in all directions, making the game not unlike Star Fox in racing form. To prevent you from just flying away into the great beyond, all tracks take place in long, see-through tunnels which twist and turn in every which way.
Another oddity for a racing game is that there is no manual acceleration, as once the race begins you will automatically begin driving at full throttle. This removes one thing you'd normally need to worry about, though there are still plenty of other actions you'll need to take yourself, including braking, firing weapons, doing barrel rolls and (naturally) turning. Scattered throughout each course are a plethora of multi-coloured hovering rings which grant a whole host of bonuses, from extra speed to health and weapons.
Health is quite important, as if it's depleted your vehicle will crash and burn before respawning a sizeable amount of time later, most likely costing you any lead you might have had. Getting hit with weapons by the other racers will likewise disable you for a bit, though this won't stall you for nearly as long. You can pelt your opponents with various weapons too, of course, including homing missiles, aimed lasers and mines.
While the story mode limits you to playing as one character, the other modes allow you to play through a broader roster, all with their own vehicles with unique stats. You'll have 10 options to begin with, though there is one additional character to unlock. Single race will, of course, allow you to play a race on any one track, while Championship mode allows you to play several tracks in a row.
Lifespeed sounds excellent on paper and has some pretty fun gameplay, but it unfortunately comes with its fair share of disappointments. Unless we somehow missed unlocking more, the game only has a meagre eight tracks, which means you'll have seen everything there is rather quickly. While there are online leaderboards for best scores (Yes, scores, not times) they don't exactly offer too much reply value.
Another issue we ran into is that the story mode doesn't appear to save your progress - if you have to stop playing and quit midway through, the next time you boot up the game you'll have to start all over. Curiously, the game does remember that you've watched certain cutscenes and will allow you to skip them the second time through, so this seems like a bit of an oversight. The story mode is short, yes - after all, it doesn't have many tracks to use - but this is still a rather irritating thing to run into.
Graphically the game does look quite good, with moderately detailed-looking tracks that maintain a smooth framerate, a must for any racing game. Perhaps this is the reason the game is a New 3DS exclusive. The music is fairly good as well, if not particularly memorable.
Lifespeed has the basics down, but more could've perhaps been done. We know making a game isn't easy these days, especially for smaller developers, but with the seemingly lengthy development cycle the game had, eight tracks seems like a bit of a limited offering when they're pretty much the most important feature. If some more time had been spent increasing the variety of locales to say, double, the game would've been quite recommendable; as it stands you've got good gameplay but a little bit less content than normally desirable. If you're happy replaying the available tracks, though, it's certainly worth consideration.