Review by Puppetmon

Reviewed: 10/20/03

A decent but unremarkable new entry to the "Kart Racing" genre.

Kirby's Air Ride arguably has the record for being the most delayed game in history. Announced early on in the N64's life it was delayed. And delayed. And delayed. Then it was canceled and we all assumed we had seen the last of it. But then it was announced for the Gamecube! Then it was delayed a few more times. Suffice it to say that everyone was shocked to see the game appear on store shelves. But, was it truly worth waiting all these years for it?

Well, before we get to that I suppose I'd best start from the beginning: For those of you who know nothing about the game it's yet another entry into the kart racing genre. We've all played those games before, so you should know the basic drill: Drive fast vehicles around a course, grabbing random items to blow your opponent's up while they do the same. First one to the finish-line or last person still alive wins. Kirby's Air Ride stays very close to the formula and simply sets things in the Kirby universe.

GRAPHICS 8 out of 10-The graphics in the game are, surprisingly enough, quite well done. All the tracks are very bright and feature a very high level of detail and polish; Look all you want, you won't find any jagged polygons on the courses or enemies. Quite simply they took Kirby and made everything in 3-D, using a lot of the Gamecube's power to make everything look as bright and colorful as they could.

MUSIC/SOUND 7 out of 10-The music and sound effects are what you've come to expect from Kirby games. The same sound-effects for Kirby's inhaling of objects, swallowing objects, spitting objects, have been used once again..and would we have it any other way? The sound effects worked fine before and they still work as well as they ever did. The only complaint with the sound would be the hit sound-effects; While they are the same as any other Kirby game, they lack ''Oomph''. No matter how hard something is hit, you hear the same generic, tiny, little, cartoon sound-effect that makes all the attacks sound weak and pointless. An intentional effect in all honesty since they didn't want the game to seem violent in any way at all, but they could've been much better. The music in all the stages and modes is very bright and cheerful. While none of the tracks are memorable in any way they do fit in the brightly colored and overly cheerful world of Kirby.

CONTROLS 3 out of 10-Unfortunetly, now we're getting to the bad parts of the game. The controls are poorly designed, had little thought put into them, and are just plain annoying. They decided to make the game as simple as possible and it truly hurts the game as a result. While most racing games make a lot of use out of the controller, with things like accelerators, breaks, and reverse buttons..Kirby's Air Ride is more basic. In fact, a lot more basic. It makes use of only ONE BUTTON and the analog stick. That's right, one button. The A Button is used for breaking, sliding, inhaling enemies, using their powers, and boosting. Acceleration is handled automatically and your steer with the control stick. Quickly slamming the control stick left and then right will cause your vehicle to spin rapidly, damaging anything nearby. Everything else, like I said, is controlled by one button. If you want to slow down you'll have to hit the A Button and your vehicle will skid to a stop, sliding along the ground..this is vital to turning and serves primarily as a power slide function. If your vehicle is near an enemy, pushing the A Button will inhale the enemy and grant you it's powers. If you have some powers, pushing the A button will use those powers. If you drive over a boost panel and want the speed boost, you again hit the A button. The obvious problem is that it can be difficult to make your character do what you want him to. Like, say you want to make use of a boost you get to it and hit the A Button, only for your character to come to a sudden and complete stop. Or if you have an ability active, then just power-sliding around a turn will use that ability..rather you wanted to use it there or not. And of course you can try to use your ability, at the cost of spontaneously coming to a dead stop. Why they didn't just use two (Or even three buttons. Or maybe even more) is a mystery we shall never know the answer to..

GAMEPLAY 5 out of 10-There are three main modes of play in Kirby's Air Ride, each considerably different then the others. First up is Air Ride-The Main mode of the game. This is your standard 3-D Kart Racing game. Choose one of the games 8 tracks, choose a vehicle, then race around gathering power-ups to blast your enemies off the track. Scattered across the track are various enemies. If you drive close to one and push the A button, Kirby will inhale the enemy and you'll temporarily gain the abilities it had (If any.). For example, if you were to swallow a fire creature you could temporarily shoot small, short-range fireballs in front of you by pushing the A button. If you were to swallow a creature with needles, then large and extremely sharp needles would emerge from your body whenever you pushed the A button. There's a more then respectable amount of different powers throughout the game and some are obviously more useful then others. The tracks themselves are large, colorful, and well detailed. But, this mode is filled with many problems. For starters, you have very little freedom on the tracks. At points in the game you'll launch off a ramp high into the air, and at points it'll look like you could just glide to a whole other portion of the track. But, if you try this, you'll suddenly ram into an invisible wall and come to a complete stop. In fact if you ever try to find a shortcut, you'll just slam into an invisible wall that'll halt your attempt. The invisible walls constantly hurt the game; Most of the time you'll be racing on a track, high in the air with no railing to protect you. Sounds exciting, but if you get near the edge you'll find your old friend the invisible wall is there to keep you from falling off. Or doing anything for that matter. These walls give the game a very ''on-rails'' feeling and make sure that you can't just explore the tracks for new paths. And to top it all off the controls I ranted about earlier don't exactly help the score much..

..Moving on to the second mode, it's Top Ride. Easilly the worst of the three modes, Top Ride is like the old early '80s top-down racing games. You view an extremly short track from a top-down perspective, then race seven laps around it. Top Ride is almost completly different then the Air Ride mode as the courses are all extremly short. There are no longer enemies on the track to inhale..they've been replaced by random power-ups that you gain by just driving through them. The power-ups are different then those in Air Ride, but lack any originality and don't exactly fit with the Kirby universe. And, as if all that wasn't bad enough, there's only two vehicles in this mode. Two vehicles. And the only difference is how you steer them. And did I mention that the tracks are really, really, REALLY short? The time spent creating this mode would've been better spent making Air Ride a more enjoyable experience.

And finally there's the City Trial mode. This mode is unusual and actually original. You and your opponents start off at random locations in a fairly large city. You then have 3 to 7 minutes (Depending on game settings) to drive around the city, finding random items to increase your vehicles stats. You can also attack the enemy drivers and be attacked yourself..if your vehicle is destroyed you have to run around the city on foot and try to find another vehicle lying around to climb into. Once the time-limit is up, everyone and their powered-up machines play a random mini-game to see who wins. Sometimes it'll be a test of whose machine can jump the farthest off a ramp. Sometimes you'll end up in a battle arena, trying to get the most kills against your opponents. Maybe you'll end up racing on one of the courses from the Air Ride mode (One lap, winner take all.). The mini-games themselves serve as an entertaining diversion from the main Air Ride mode, but the city itself could use some work. By the second time you play it, you'll probably have driven all around the city multiple times. And while the game will throw random events your way at times, such as the giant bird Dyna Blade attacking or the city bursting into that interesting don't come often, making City Trial become rather boring after just a few times through.

But, how do you unlock anything or actually complete the game? After all there has to be more to it then just choosing a random course and playing that one track, right? Well...yes and no. Each mode has a Checklist for it and the big goal is to complete said checklist. The checklist is composed of a grid filled with 120 squares and each square represents a challenge that you need to complete. At first the game doesn't tell you any of the challenges, yet as you complete various challenges it'll tell you more and more of your objectives. The objectives range from interesting (Finish a certain course without hitting a wall), to generic (Finish so many laps in a certain time-limit), to exceedingly pointless (Swallow three snowmen and then finish the race in first place). In most of the challenges your place in the races does not matter. Take the challenges that make you finish a course in a certain doesn't matter if you were in first or not when you get to the finish, just that beat that time-limit. Furthermore the checklist is the ENTIRE one-player mode. No racing tournaments, no races that actually mean anything, nothing actually interesting. And to top it all off..there's a 120 square checklist for each mode. That's 360 challenges total, very few of which were interesting to begin with.

REPLAYABILITY 2 out of 10-And it's that checklist that hurts the games replayability the most. While 360 challenges ensures that it'll take a very long time to finish the game, it also means that there'll be no reason to ever replay it. In the rare event you have the patience to honestly complete all the challenges, your certainly not going to ever say ''Gee, I want to start over and fill in those checklists again!''. And since the game doesn't have a story to see, an actual point, or much in the way of a one-player mode your not going to be coming back to this game in the future.

CLOSING STATEMENTS-You really have to question who this game was made for. Serious racing fans don't usually like Kart Racing games and they'd be more interested in a serious racing game. Kart Racing fans will be upset that there are far better Kart Racing gamers out there, even as far back as the SNES. Fans of Kirby would probably prefer an actual new Kirby platform game. And young children, who the game was made simple enough for, certainly won't have the patience to complete the checklist. Die-hard fans of Kart Racing and Kirby should go ahead and rent the game. Parents might want to rent the game for young children to keep them occupied for a week-end, knowing that with one button to control things and no plot that they'll at least be able to understand the game. Everyone else would do well to just stay away from the game and wait for a new Mario Kart to come out.

FINAL SCORE-5 out of 10

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

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