Review: Speedfest


Arctica has got me sussed. Throw in 3D action with plenty of particle physics and a sci-fi theme and I'm basically putty in its hands. In this case, Speedfest, though Arctica's other titles are also getting ported from Symbian to Windows Phone (watch this space). If you're into first person, seat-of-the-pants action games then I think you too will love it.

Author: Arctica

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According to the official blurb: "Speedfest straps you on to a rocket-sled going at breakneck speeds, your mission is to evacuate stranded personnel from a deep space research outpost before a collapsing sun scorches the planet". Indeed. In practice, it's an adrenaline-fuelled sci-fi racer with graphics straight from the likes of Quake or Doom - all neon texture-mapped surfaces, particle physics plumes and eye candy galore.

Speedfest screenshot

The opening few minutes of racing are gentle and introduce the various elements you'll want to hit or pass over/through...

The result is quite something to behold, especially when you get up to speed. The particle streams may not look much in the static screenshots, but they're a lot more impressive when animated and when you're passing through them at up to 200mph. 

Speedfest screenshot

From left to right along the bottom: speed, lives left and time/time-deductions. Note the astronaut (etc) standing on his pod waiting to be collected (a.k.a. rammed into!)

There are thirty levels in all to power your way through, with five lives available for each, and with the twists and turns in the maze ahead of you getting ever trickier. And everything's against the clock, so you'll want to pick up some 'speedups' along the way, to accelerate your sled. You can also go through 'time warp' gates, which 'bend time' and effectively give you a few more seconds...

Speedfest screenshot

Dying in a level restarts you automatically at the start of the current level...

The catch comes when the turns become extreme - in these cases you'll also want to seek out and pass over 'slow downs', similar avatars that decelerate the sled. The physics behind Speedfest seem very well thought out and with reduced velocity you'll find you can skid round tight corners more easily.

Overcook your speed round a corner and you'll slam into one of the walls with a sickening thud - despite the sci-fi setting, there's a surprising air of realism and even glancing blows are represented in haptic and aural feedback - you know you've hit something. Slam into a wall point blank, of course, and that's a life gone ("Crashed and burned").

Although when playing SpeedFest at first your main goal will simply be to make your way through the levels, you'll eventually be good enough to want to achieve the mythical three star rating for each level, not to mention a faster-than-before time total for the game.

Speedfest screenshot

The snow landscapes are the hardest - although not obvious in the early screenshot here, the sheer amount of snow particles thrown up make it hard to see the emerging 3D maze layout - just like driving in real snow, eh?

All of which means a lot of gameplay value. I played for a good hour and got as far as level 12 - with the levels getting harder and harder, I'd say you've got up to ten hours of racing to get through the whole game before you start to go back and try to clear levels faster and better. Having said this, SpeedFest is a tiny bit repetitive - you're not going to want to play for hours nonstop, it's a perfect casual game for ten minutes here and there (i.e. "clear a new level, achieve a better time", etc.)

Speedfest screenshot

Happily, the lava fields aren't as deadly as they were in Doom, all those years ago...

There's a pumping Knight-Rider-esque soundtrack, plus numerous atmospheric sound effects as needed, depending on what you hit or pass over. Passing through lava particle rain or passing over snow-covered terrain feels almost real, even though every particle is discrete and very obvious.

Speedfest screenshot

Another poor soul about to be saved from the apocalypse!

A cracking title from Arctica - you'll get through the early levels and think "piece of cake" and then by the time you get to levels 7 and 8 it'll be more "oh heck, what have I got myself into, I'm going too fast, I won't make that turn", followed by a bone shattering crash, particles everywhere and a fade to black. Before the action starts again, automatically... and again.... and again....

If your eyesight and reactions are good enough then run, don't walk, to pony up the (mere) 79p and get sledding through the future.

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