There are some names in gaming, that when you hear them linked to a title, you just have to sit up and pay attention. I am talking about the likes of Hideo Kojima, Peter Molyneux, Goichi Suda and Todd Howard. One other such name is Yu Suzuki – the man behind legendary Sega series Hang-On, Space Harrier, Out Run, After Burner, Virtua Cop and Shenmue… that last one is a bit of a sore point for a lot of gamers. It’s fair to say Shenmue 3 wasn’t what thousands had pledged for on Kickstarter or what they had hoped for after decades of waiting. But the hardest part of a fall is picking yourself back up and Yu Suzuki and his studio YS Net are back after a bit of time in the shadows, with a much smaller scale offering Air Twister.
Air Twister is an on rails shooter that harps back to Suzuki’s glory days, having a real Space Harrier vibe to it. You may have heard/played this already if you are a mobile gamer, as the game first hit the Apple Arcade back in 2022, but has now made the jump to the consoles and PC. Right off the bat though, this game is a true fever dream of a thing. I honestly believe is the closest you can get to taking drugs without actually taking them, because it’s one far out psychedelic adventure. This is a game where the visuals and sound play a huge part in its at times almost religious experience. Graphically the game is wild and an explosion of colours, styles and effects, one minute you’re flying through a desert, then the next you’re facing off against a huge dancing clock. You never truly know what’s coming next in this fantasy fuelled thrill ride. Then there is the soundtrack which is just… insane – by Dutch musician Valensia, who delivers 19 tracks both new and old for the game. If you didn’t know they were by him, you would swear it was an unheard Queen album or Freddie Mercury come back for one more gig.
You play as Princess Arch who has to defend her home world called AIR from a Large-scale invasion by Vanguard and that’s your tale. Though good luck finding this out, as the game never really stops to tell you anything beyond blast those flying things. There is a world guide within the game, which has more story information and lore to try and help flesh things out. However, it feels like a collection of information chunks that you have to try and piece together yourself, rather than a flowing compendium of the world of AIR. Gameplay though is a simple affair where you fly around on a set path, as enemies fly in from all directions and attack you. You have a big gun to shoot back with and is very easy to lock onto groups of enemies with as well. Once you have blasted enough of them, you’ll arrive at a boss fight that will see you then riding a number of beasts; like a dragon, elephant and swan – while targeting weak points and constantly asking yourself if you’re losing your mind from the assault of visuals and colours.
Although this is a port of a mobile game really, you cannot truly tell its roots on the gameplay front and the transition between platforms is honestly not noticeable across its 12 levels. While you are blasting bad guys you can collect stars, which you can use to unlock extra goodies; from outfits to hairstyles, even more beefy attacks and firepower, as there is a HUGE unlock section that takes the form of an adventure map for you to work your way around. Even though there are only 12 levels, it’s far from a one and done affair, as there are a number of modes to tackle and unlock, like a mode that sees you battling a timer and even a more challenging one life run mode to really test your skills. Again, for a mobile game at its roots, it comes packed with content. Air Twister is easily one of the wildest games I have played in years, full of whimsy, joy and fuelled by nothing but pure fantasy from beginning to end. Yes, under its hallucinogenic fever dream presentation, it’s really just an on rails shooter… but when the grand master of rail shooters forges a new one, you bet it’s just a little special. I was taken by total surprise by this and never stopped smiling, saying WTF or tripping while playing it. If you miss the likes of Space Harrier and Panzer Dragoon this is a must or if you are just looking to assault your senses in the best sort of way.
An Xbox review copy of Air Twister was provided by YS Net’s PR team and the game is out now on Mobile, PC, Switch, Xbox and PlayStation for around £20.