Racing Wings review: extreme air racing, the arcade way
If you’re a fan of the Red Bull Air Race, and watch it to vicariously live out your flying fantasies, then the game Racing Wings is here to take you a step closer to getting your high-G kicks. This is extreme air racing for your Android device.
If you haven’t seen the likes of the Red Bull Air Race, it involves tiny training planes making break-neck manoeuvres, flying through inflatable gates, against the clock. Racing Wings aims to bring that experience to your Android device. It’s not a simulator though, there’s no pitch (i.e. aileron control), and the space through which you can fly is strictly two dimensional. Hence the fixed perspective throughout the game.
What Racing Wings does, instead, is distil the mechanics of air racing down into an arcade action experience. In other words, it dumbs things down, but then, the real life experience of air racing is extremely difficult – so you shouldn’t feel too cheated!
While racing, you control the plane by tilting your device which causes the plan to bank and turn. Paths between gates to be flown through are marked out by straight lines and on-screen tips tell you to stay on those paths. However, that is not always the best advice. It’s best to think ahead and work out the bearing that you need to be coming out of the gate on to be in the best position for the following gate, and as such it’s better to come at the gate from a wider angle than the ‘as the crow flies’ path suggests.
In a touch that would make Mario or Sonic proud, there are floating coins to collect mid-flight, and sometimes the pattern of those coins also suggests taking an arcing trajectory in order to exit the next gate at the optimum angle, rather than strictly following the direct paths. Those coins can be spent on upgrading your plane between competitions.
The gates are colour coded, but you don’t get any penalty for cutting the inflatable towers, unlike real air races. The colour coding relates to how you are expected to pass through the gate, i.e. horizontal or vertical. Because of how the planes fly, this translates to whether you should make a turn before or after passing through the gate.
It’s not all just about flying through gates and collecting floating coins though. The game has a collection of training circuits and competitions to enter – in other words it provides both quick play and campaign modes. Also, as you fly circuits, you earn money based on your performance, and this money can be put to improving the handling of your plane. Specifically, you can upgrade the velocity, acceleration and turning.
I found the control system to be problematic though, as even when I upgraded the turning performance, I still found that there was a significant ‘dead zone’ in how the game reacted to the accelerometer. That made fine adjustments almost impossible and constantly caused over steering which then leads to a flamboyant struggle to correct the plane back onto a straight course before reaching the next gate.
After a while, half an hour in my case, the gameplay becomes quite repetitive and that accelerometer dead zone becomes too frustrating to carry on with.
I enjoyed the game at first, but for the reasons just stated, I think it lacks the longevity to recommend to others. However, you can install Racing Wings for free via the Play Store, and so you can try it for yourself and tell us what you think in the comments.