Lifespeed is a new futuristic racing game for the New 3DS. It is the debut game of independent studio Wee Man Studios, a company based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Lifespeed makes a few interesting gameplay choices in a genre that's mostly stuck to mechanics of conventional racing games like Gran Turismo, but the game does have a few notable shortcomings. It is worth playing if you enjoy racing games in general and futuristic racers in particular.
At first glance, Lifespeed looks similar to F-Zero and Wipeout, but it’s not quite the same. Wipeout generally has racers tied to the ground, and F-Zero allows the racing craft to stick to surfaces, such as loops and on pipes. In Lifespeed; the racing crafts are able to move up and down freely and the racing craft is constantly in motion, similar to an Arwing in a Star Fox game. There’s no need to hold down the A button to cause it to accelerate like other games. With that major difference, the controls do take some getting used to, but the adjustment is quick. The movement controls are smooth, though some sharper turns will require changing the direction of the racing craft well before the actual turn. Failing to turn and crashing will deplete your health, which leads to a few seconds of regeneration when emptied. You can also control your weapons and brakes and perform barrel rolls. A special emphasis is placed on flying through rings, which can increase your speed, recover your health, or give you weapons. Blue rings that increase speed are often spaced apart in groups of three, allowing you to chain your boosts. They can also be hazard points. One of the weapons is a mine, and the AIs will often place a mine just outside of a boost ring, leaving your craft helpless to dodge it. Even on the easiest difficulty this is a common hazard. There are four levels of difficulty, with the highest being nearly as difficult as F-Zero GX's story mode.
Lifespeed is strictly a single player game. There are no local or online multiplayer options, though there is an online leaderboard for high scores. On the main menu, you’ll be given the option to race in a story mode, a single race, or a Championship mode, which functions like Mario Kart or F-Zero’s Cup mode. The story mode is a fairly short mode. You’re restricted to a single racer that represents his planet in races organized by a totalitarian government lead by a dictator called the Archon. These races are used as a form of entertainment to placate the masses. The hero becomes a rising star in these races, being seen as a prophesized chosen one that will end the Archon’s thousand-year reign of terror. The actual story is told through comic book cutscenes, though the story is very shallow and basic. It also does not save progress, so it must be completed in one sitting. Strangely, it does save the fact that the stages have been completed at least once. The cutscenes are unskippable the first time they're played but are skippable thereafter. This is an unusual choice, especially for a game on a portable system.
Graphically, the game looks very nice. Lifespeed is exclusive to the New 3DS and has more processing power to utilize than a standard 3DS title. The 3D effects are well done and have a minimal effect on the framerate. However, there are only eight tracks, and on at least two of them, I often had difficulty seeing where the track was going during a sharp turn. The music is high quality and entertaining, if fairly generic. Practically all of your attention will be focused on the top screen. The bottom screen does nothing but display a map and a few story elements, such as other racers crying out when hit. While this setup is typical for racing games on the DS and 3DS, the map is never particularly useful, and the race generally moves too fast to make looking worth looking away from the top screen
Overall, Lifespeed is a fun game but it feels incomplete. It lacks a decent quantity of tracks, modes, and the lack of multiplayer is very unusual for a racing game. Being a New 3DS exclusive gives it extra graphical quality but at the cost of excluding the existing install base of original 3DS owners. It’s a great game considering it’s the first game from the studio, but you’ll find yourself wanting more content.
Lifespeed was reviewed on New Nintendo 3DS with a code provided by the developer.
LIfespeed is a well-made game that takes advantage of the New 3DS hardware, but the lack of content really hurts it in the long run.
- Great Visuals
- Intense 3D Effects
- No Multiplayer
- Limited Number of Tracks