"Simplistic, yet fun."

It's always nice to see a new Kirby game. The character is a great hit (especially among kids), and all of his games are usually a huge, pink ball of pure light-hearted fun. It's hard not to like Kirby. And it's hard not to like this game.

“The first of its breed.”

Kirby's Air Ride is a... well, sort of a different breed of racing game. How so, you may ask? Well, as the name suggests, it's heavily based on launching yourself into the air. Take Kirby (in a variety of different colors!) and a vehicle ranging from the standard warp-star to what seems to be an Ice-Cream-cart, all with a variety of different stats, and race through many different courses. Whenever you go off of a jump (and there are many, many jumps around) you have the option of keeping your vehicle afloat and gliding through the air. However, the only advantages to gliding a vehicle are trivial at best. For one, you're in the air. Also, it's possible to access different paths (that are usually only slightly shorter than the main path) by gliding. But, what's even worse is the fact that not every vehicle glides equal. This makes me question the existence of some of the heavy vehicles, because most are as fast as the lighter ones but can't glide...

“Graphics... ugh...”

Okay, I'll say it right now; the graphics are the weak point of the game. While I know that they were going for the cartoonish look, they didn't have to go overkill and make just about everything look like it was drawn by a five-year-old. While some effects like explosions and water look beautiful, they just make the rest of the game look even worse. However, the graphics do kind of match the game's overall bright and cheery feeling, so at least they accomplished that.

“Ultra Simplistic controls...”

“A” and the Analog stick. That's all you'll need for this game. Sure, it makes the game easier, but there is such a thing as OVER simplifying something. For example, you'll automatically attack something when you get near it, due to the lack of an “attack” button. And all you have to worry about while commandeering your vehicle is turning. Not very advanced racing controls...

“Three modes for your split personalities!”

The game is split into three modes, Air Ride, Top Ride, and City Trial. All three are, down to the core, different games. Each mode has its strengths and weaknesses, and will appeal to different people. In my eyes, a stroke of brilliance by the game.

Air Ride is the straight-out racing mode. The courses are all intricate and interesting, but I really wish that there were more. Most of them are actually on the short side, yet the game makes you do more laps to compensate for this. Also, the lack of alternate paths stands out... a lot... The whole “air ride” part of the game is supposed to be used to its fullest here, but, as said before, choosing to glide through the air isn't really much better than zooming along on the ground. Also, you are able to “suck up” enemies and “copy” them like any Kirby game, and you'll be able to use your abilities to inflict damage on other racers!

The arcade-like Top Ride is a bit different. You can't glide at all. The courses are all circular and 30-seconds long, and the whole race, with all of its competitors, is shown from a “bird's-eye view.” You'll usually have to complete around five laps. Bored yet? Trust me; this mode is more fun than it sounds. There are so many little obstacles and power-ups to confuse you and aid you that a two-minute race can take up to five minutes. I'll honestly say that this is the best mode out of them all.

And last, City Trial, for those with the obsession of “leveling up.” You take a totally unused warp star, and you're thrown into a very interesting city to basically ride/glide around and find power-ups. After a set time limit, you'll compete in one of many “stadium challenges” ranging from high-jump to beat Kind Dedede. If you've taken the right power-ups, you'll have a better chance of winning. This is the bare-bones version of this mode, but it's much more intricate. There are many things to do in the city, including challenges and tasks which will give you extra power-ups and make you think. Overall, this mode is actually quite fun... though it's annoying to start from Level one in everything once you want to play it again.

“And this will keep you playing for a long time...”

You'll be kept playing to unlock (and compete in) the Stadium Challenges, and complete all of the tasks (located on a Checklist) in each of the modes. Decent Replayability, but nothing with any sort of nostalgic value, which is always looked for in the extras for a game...

Anyway, overall, this game, while very simple as a racing game, is actually very fun as... well... a game. And that should be all that matters, shouldn't it? Racing fans may want to look somewhere else, Kirby fans, celebrate.

Pros:

Lighthearted and fun play
Innovative
A new kind of racing game
Simplistic controls

Cons:

Maybe TOO simplistic
Dumbed down graphics

Overall: 8/10


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/20/04


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