Review: Air Twister

Let's twist again, like we did in 1985

Twister is impossible enough. Right foot red, left foot green, right foot goes somewhere it shouldn't, right foot brown, everyone has to go home. At least, that's my repeated experience. And that's just land Twister. Imagine how difficult Air Twister must be! Chortle! No, only joking. Don't sulk.

What the flip is Air Twister, then? Would it perk you up a little to learn that it's a Yu Suzuki joint? Following Shenmue 3, this one initially dropped on Apple Arcade, meaning no living human played it until its wider console and PC release date last week. I jumped on it eagerly - it's Yu Suzuki doing a Space Harrier, for crying out loud! But then, it isn't - not quite. The lock-on blasting is a little slower than Harrier's adventure; maybe a little closer to Galaxy Force 2, though of course rendered in full 3D polygon-o-vision. It's actually got something of an uncanny valley feel that calls to mind another lock-on rail shooter, the almighty Panzer Dragoon.

It's an arcade game through and through, with 12 stages to blast through and no saving of progress. It's a one and done, friends; you run out of lives and continues, it's back to the main menu for you. Thankfully, the game isn't long (a standard run will top out at forty minutes), but it's still surprising not to see any kind of suspend save feature. That's not to say there isn't any kind of progression; being a mobile game, initially, there's an enormous grid of incremental upgrades and flamboyant costumes for your main character, one Princess Arch out to save her kingdom from big weird mushrooms and that.

In fact, flamboyant is a good way to describe Air Twister in general. From the instant you reach the title screen you'll hear a song so close to Bohemian Rhapsdody that I'm surprised there weren't any legal problems. Unless this review gets seen by the estate of Frederick Mercury and opt to sue, in which case I sincerely apologise to Yu Suzuki for bringing this down on him. Regardless, I enjoy the aesthetic of Air Twister in all its slightly upsetting glory, and it's a lot ot fun to play as well.

While it's not the quickest rail shooter, it may be the slickest; the game runs beautifully smoothly and the succession of unbelievable other-worldly locales go a long way to adding much-needed variety and excitement to what is, somewhat by design, a repetitive experience. Frustration will ensue before you're able to memorise certain enemy patterns and dodge their bullet sprays. Though I found myself instinctively drawn to said bullets, given they looked like Hundreds and Thousands. Do you have those in America? I bet you call them something daft like Freedom Flakes. Air Twister, mind - it's worth persevering, because one of the later levels has an extremely cool visual gimmick that I won't be spoiling. Ehhh. Well, actually, I might as well. There's a sort of Sega Model 2 flat shaded polygons level. It's good, you'll like it.

There are so many unlockables and extra features here that I can't even begin to list them all, but I'm not convinced anyone would be "into it" enough to go through everything. That's not a slight on the game, which is terrific fun once you get to grips with it, just a matter-of-fact acknowledgment that an as arcade-style title there's a degree of limited returns for a certain type of gamer, one who really doesn't want to start from Stage 1 every time. The game's price point ($25) also seems a touch steep, considering its relative obscurity and general style of "progression".

But it's good fun, and quite frankly anyone who loves Space Harrier or Panzer Dragoon should give it a go. What have you got to lose, besides potentially your time, money, enthusiasm and energy? Nothin', that's what! Unless you do, in fact, have something else to lose. In which case. Er. Sorry.