One of the most irritating things anyone can say online is: “Nobody asked for this.” It’s a cocky, unfairly harsh way of shutting down any new game that isn’t on a person’s own specific wishlist, and not only is it generally disrespectful, it can also be totally meaningless.
After all, a game doesn’t have to have been requested en masse by the gaming public to be worthwhile, and Skydrift Infinity is a perfect example of this. We're pretty sure nobody asked for it either, but it’s here regardless, and it’s immensely good fun while it lasts.
For those not familiar with it (and we imagine that's most of you), Skydrift Infinity is not to be confused with bizarre Switch girl-riding racing game Gensou SkyDrift. Instead, it's based on Skydrift, a download-only game that was quietly released on the Xbox 360 and PS3 digital stores a decade ago. Skydrift Infinity is a remaster of that game, bringing a visual upgrade and adding a few new planes for good measure.
While at first glance it may seem like a dogfighting game, Skydrift Infinity is in fact an arcade-style racer where the aim is simply to finish first ahead of your opponents. There are three main race types available: Power Race is your typical Mario Kart type race where power-ups litter the track, Speed Race removes the power-ups and replaces them with mid-air rings that give you extra speed, and Survivor is the sort of thing you always see in racing games where the racer who’s last after a set period of time is eliminated.
Nothing groundbreaking, then, but that doesn’t really matter when the actual racing feels solid enough, like it does here. Each plane handles really well and things can get really exciting at times when you’re swooping into tiny gaps and pulling off extremely tight turns to avoid hitting canyon walls.
The original game had eight planes, with extra DLC bringing that up to 11. Infinity includes them all and adds five new ones, including some cameos from other THQ Nordic games. There’s an EDF Gunship from Red Faction: Guerrilla Remastered, the BS4-VR Sporano from Sine Mora EX, and even a couple of planes based on Death and War from Darksiders.
Although there's a clear difference between some of them – you’ve got your typical tropes of the high-speed ones that can’t turn well, and the slightly slower ones that favour manoeuvrability instead – it’s fair to say that many of the planes have near-identical stats, though this does mean that once you find a plane that suits your style you’ll at least have a few designs to choose from.
As for the stages you’ll actually be racing them on, they’re great. Whether you're racing over an idyllic lagoon, a snowy mountain with ice caverns or a tight desert course at dawn, the tracks on offer here are well designed and have enough alternate routes to have you playing them multiple times to try and figure out the best path to take.
The power-up system is also effective enough. It’s similar to Diddy Kong Racing, with various colour-coded icons dotted around the track. This means players can go out of their way to make sure they pick up specific power-ups they’re looking for, adding something of a tactical element. When you’re ahead you're going to be actively searching for shields and repair power ups, while when you’re behind you’re naturally going to be aiming for homing missiles and machine guns.
You can only hold two power-ups at any time, and if you're stuck with ones you don’t want, you can use them to top up your boost gauge instead. The boost can also be topped up by performing dangerously: near-missing the scenery, flying close to the ground and the like. This is a game that rewards risk, and feels more exciting as a consequence.
It all comes together to make for a brilliantly entertaining arcade-style racer that we don't see enough of these days, or at least certainly not to this standard, with no nonsense like DLC. All the planes and their skins are unlocked through good old-fashioned progression, like it used to be.
It reminds us of an airborne version of N64 and Dreamcast classic Hydro Thunder, which also offered arcade-style racing with an unconventional vehicle (a speedboat, in its case) and found itself a cult audience for its big stunts and over-the-top races. We can imagine Skydrift Infinity gaining a similar following.
The Switch version comes with two graphics options, Performance and Detail. Performance is the default and runs the game at a near-perfect 60 frames per second, while still looking impressive enough that most players will probably (rightly) stick with it. The Quality setting drops the frame rate to 30 in favour of an apparent increase in graphical detail but, to be honest, it’s so negligible that even when we paused the game and switched between the two settings on the fly, we couldn’t see much of a difference.
Pretty much everyone should be playing in Performance mode, then. A game is fast as this really benefits from the boost to 60 fps, and there isn’t enough of a difference to justify switching. Even in handheld mode, where the picture is noticeably a little blurrier, Quality mode didn’t really improve this much, meaning you’re best sticking with Performance for 60 fps there too..
The only real disappointment we have with Skydrift Infinity is how long it lasts. There are only six courses in the game, and while each has a reverse option and can be played in the three different race types, it takes no time at all before you've seen everything the game has to offer.
The campaign mode, which features seven rounds of five races, is all there is for single players, with no Time Trial or Grand Prix modes to mix things up a bit. Once you’ve made your way through all the races and unlocked all the planes and liveries, you’ve done pretty much all you can with it, short of going back to and playing through events you've already won just for the fun of it.
There is a local splitscreen multiplayer option for up to four players which adds a couple of Deathmatch modes to the normal three race styles. It’s fun enough, and while the visual quality drops a bit it still manages to run at 60 fps in two player mode (dropping down to 30 fps for three and four players).
Other than that, though, that's pretty much it. Technically it’s got online multiplayer too, but as with so many lower profile games on the Switch you’d need to be exceptionally lucky to find a race (we failed to do so after numerous attempts).
It’s very much a case of quality over quantity, then, and a number of players are likely to have seen everything Skydrift Infinity has to offer after just a few hours. Its price reflects this, to be fair, but it’s a shame that there isn't more meat on this one's bones, because what’s there is thoroughly entertaining and has us wanting more.
Skydrift Infinity provides solid, enjoyable arcade-style racing action and delivers it at a silky 60 frames per second. What's there is great fun, but with only six tracks and one single-player mode it's not long before you've seen all it has to offer.