Monday 27 November 2023

Air Twister Review (Switch)


Of all the retro comebacks and genres out there, the Space Harrier clone is something that developers haven’t gone to that often in their quest tap into our nostalgia glands. We have had a classic arcade release of course, Sin and Punishment popped up on the Wii and the Switch N64 store and a Panzer Dragoon remake, but overall, it’s been quiet. It’s fitting then that Yu Suzuki, the original creator of Space Harrier, has taken it upon himself to add a new entry to the genre.

Air Twister, was originally released on Apple Arcade in 2022 and follows the Space Harrier mould very closely. You zoom around fantastical locations, led through the levels on rails and you can fly anywhere on the screen. The one big difference is that the heroine of the piece, Princess Arch, can use lock on lasers as well as just blasting in the same way as something like Panzer Dragoon. At the end of each level is a boss to take down and it’s about as pure an arcade experience as you can get. It also, sadly, never quite shakes of that feeling of it being a mobile game.

In its favour are the mass of unlocks available. These range from the cosmetic, such as new costumes or hairstyles to a whole host of buffs and upgrades. These cover just about everything that could be helpful to you from health and attack power to making certain obstacles unable to damage you. These are all unlocked by collecting stars as you progress through the stages as well as additions from bonuses produced at the end of rounds. It gives some incentive to keep playing as a run through from beginning to end will take about half an hour. As well as unlockable buffs and costumes though, there are also a host of additional modes, boss rushes and mini games so there is at least an attempt to keep the player with the game.

While impressive in bursts, the visuals of Air Twister can be a bit odd. There is no consistency from one world to the next and instead you are just sort of flying through a kaleidoscope of vaguely surrealist level design. One minute you might be flying through an abandoned desert, while the next you’ll be in amongst giants mushrooms and flowers. This does create an element of detachment and makes it all seem a bit random. Even some kind of world map would have been helpful here. The upscaling can be patchy as well.

The biggest flaw with the game though is that it’s just a bit basic and repetitive. When you think other games in this genre have added things like dodges or wider ranges of movement this just seems flat. It also lacks the urgency and pace of the original Space Harrier. It’s all ok but nothing really changes. There are a few levels where you must avoid obstacles or position yourself through gaps, but they are all too fleeting and blasting at lack lustre enemy formations isn’t enough to sustain it. The bosses are all similar as well which doesn’t help.

Overall, Air Twister is inoffensive in its design but it’s also not particular inspirational. It controls ok and looks ok, but nothing really makes it stand out. The truth is there are at least three other games like it on the Switch and all of them have more identify and personality. If you are the most hardcore of Yu Suzuki fans, then you’ll get something out of this but when Space Harrier and Panzer Dragoon are often available for pennies it’s unlikely to hold anyone’s attention for long.

Overall 5/10

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