Blast from the Past: Kirby Air Ride (GameCube)

Racing
4

Poor

Nintendo’s pink blob has entertained many gamers since its inception on the NES. While most players will remember Kirby games as some of the better platformers of our time he did once try his luck at the racing genre and failed miserably.

Look mom, no hands!

Kirby Air Ride takes what makes the platformer games so popular and brings the concept to the GameCube in a title named Kirby Air Ride. The premise, as with any racing game, is quite simple – pass the finish line first. The problem is that Kirby Air Ride takes this simplicity to the next level as it’s far too simplistic. To have your craft move forward you quite literally do nothing. That’s right, you press no button to accelerate. The floating machine Kirby sits on top of moves without any press of a button. In fact, pressing a button can at times hinder your race.

Press the A button on the GameCube controller and it’ll have one of three effects. When entering a corner hold the A button down and release it to boost out of the corner. Randomly tap it while racing and it’ll actually slow the machine down. Lastly is the copy ability. Tap the A button when passing any foes on the track and you’ll copy their ability. This could range from having a Sword equipped to fight off other racers, to throwing balls of fire and using wings to fly about the track. These abilities definitely aid you in your aim to come first, but I managed to come first in a race without touching the controller. Guess that explains just how “difficult” things get. Gliding and hitting speed boosts is as exciting as your input will get. In total there are nine tracks to choose from each with their own unique shortcuts, but it’s just too bland for any one track to stand out.

There are a number of air ride machines to choose from and each will come with their own unique ability. Some machines can’t boost at all but come with a better average speed, while others have better weight specs to bash other racers out of the way. Seeing as you’re basically on a roller coaster ride and just enjoying the scenery there isn’t any real reason to get too picky about what vehicle you choose. Go for the one that seems best for your style of ‘not doing much’ and let the havoc unfold.

To have your craft move forward you quite literally do nothing.

As soon as you start the game up you’ll have access to three modes. Air Ride is your general ‘arcade’ mode that allows you to race on any one track as you please, while City Trial adds an interesting mechanic to the mix. City trails gives you and up to three other local players the opportunity to scavenge a small city for vehicle parts and stat upgrades for five minutes. Once five minutes have passed you’ll enter a random event to play and the person with the best stats will take the honours. It’s a simple mechanic you would have seen in Smash Bros. on the 3DS and Wii U that works. The best mode by far is the last mode, Top Ride.

A better view from the top

Top Ride takes the mechanics and lets you play the game from a classic top-down view as you would have experienced in older racers in arcades in the 80s. Up to four players can play and must complete a number of laps to win. Instead of using copy abilities you can pick up various items lying on the tracks that can mean the difference between winning and losing. It’s basically Mario Kart with a top-down point of view and is great fun. When you consider that you have seven tracks on offer it’s definitely where the real fun in the game lies. Problem is that this bit of fun is only going to last so long before wanting to move on to something else with a bit more content.

Kirby Air Ride is one of five games that made use of the GameCube broadband adaptor, allowing for up to four players to play against each other. It was a very weak entry into the list, which really helped cement the broadband adapter as a commercial failure around the world. Thankfully there is 4-player split-screen gaming on offer and the frame rate is impressive, but that’s due to the graphics looking very sub-par for a GameCube title. The highlight is easily the soundtrack as it includes some of the Kirby classics.

Kirby Air Ride is unfortunately far too simplistic and the part that shines has too little to make it a GameCube game worth remembering. There are many more great classics on the GameCube, best you forget this pink haze.

Good

  • Classic Kirby soundtrack
  • You can go do groceries while the game plays itself for you
  • Top Ride 4-player split-screen is where it's at

Bad

  • Far too simplistic
  • Tracks lack depth
  • Not much content

Summary

Kirby has done wonders for the platform genre over the years, but finds himself out of his depth in the racing genre. It's simplistic, repetitive and downright boring. Copy something else instead, Kirby.
4

Poor

Married to a gamer and she kicks my ass at most shooters. If the game is enjoyable I'll play it, no matter the format.

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