Gensou Skydrift Review

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You’ve raced cars, bikes, antigravity vehicles, karts… but have you raced girls with magical powers? Thought not.

Gensou Skydrift, the latest in a long line of Touhou Project games, is absolutely mad. Featuring over 20 girls that will be familiar to fans of the series, to engage in a spot of racing they decide to, uh, ride each other. Pairing up, one girl rides while the other acts as a hoverboard of sorts. And just to add an extra bit of spice to the proceedings, they can cast spells to thwart their opponents or give them the upper hand for a short while.

Campaign mode finds you in pursuit of a force that’s draining some of the girls’ spirit energy. It takes players through about eight races, with an incomprehensible story relayed by text boxes in between. And once that’s over and done with, players can go through yet another campaign if they’re hungry for more. Still, completing both won’t take much more than a couple of hours. If even that.

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Outside of campaign mode, players can set up matches against the CPU in Versus mode, or race against themselves in Free Run. Needless to say, both aren’t likely to keep players occupied in the long run. Thankfully that’s where online multiplayer comes in – those who gel with Gensou Skydrift‘s gameplay could spend tens of hours drifting around corners and blasting others with spells as their favourite girl duo.

Each of the girls on offer have their own unique stats and special ability, and you can effortlessly switch between who’s the rider and who’s the vehicle in the heat of a race. That’s especially handy seeing as you need to build up your magic gauge to cast a helpful spell. It refills automatically – albeit at a snail’s pace – but by manoeuvring through boost rings, it fills much quicker.

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20 tracks are featured in Gensou Skydrift, with the majority of them being utterly unique. You’ll find yourself racing through a town, a fiery temple, a forest, and even an airborne ship. For the most part they offer enjoyable routes with the odd shortcut if you keep a keen eye on your surroundings. At least a couple, however, are perhaps a little too twisty for comfort. You see, flying girls don’t corner all that well.

Like a kart racer, braking is a dirty word in Gensou Skydrift. You can brake if you want, but it slows you down so much that your opposition will just speed past you. Instead you’re supposed to drift around corners, which works fine for the most part, but it’s hard to always get your drift just right for the most severe of bends.

The control scheme doesn’t help – playing on PS4, the circle button is assigned to acceleration, and the X button to brake. To drift, you need to hold them both down at once, which is awkward – especially when you also factor in that you need to press the right shoulder button to set up and activate spells. And no, there’s no way to reassign the controls, because that would just be too helpful, wouldn’t it?

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Being a low-budget affair, Gensou Skydrift isn’t all that pleasant to look at, either. It looks like a game from a bygone era, with blurry textures and flat lighting. The saving grace is that it runs as smooth as silk. The soundtrack’s not too bad either. In fact, you might quite like it.

Gensou Skydrift isn’t a terrible racing game, but its awkward controls and iffy drifting mechanic heavily reduce the fun that can be had from it. Add into the mix poor visuals and a dire campaign, and unless you’re happy to race online you should probably avoid it. Hopefully the option to remap the controls will be delivered in an update, because that would definitely make it more of an interesting proposition.


Gensou Skydrift Review: GameSpew’s Score

Gensou Skydrift is available on PS4, Switch and PC. We reviewed the PS4 version (played on PS5) with a code provided by the game’s publisher.