Plane Crazy forces players to race planes at breakneck speeds while only a few feet off the ground. Five courses, eight opposing racers, crosswinds, downdrafts, and competition that becomes increasingly more difficult are all part of the challenge.
Plane Crazy is based on the very familiar theme of racing along a course, tagging checkpoints to get the extra time, and ultimately, trying to cross the finish line before any of your opponents do. The main difference is... you guessed it! The cars have been substituted for these adorable little airplanes. Europress promised that Plane Crazy would be a revolutionary racing game with outstanding graphics and fully controllable aircraft. Well, the graphics are outstanding, you have a fair amount of control over your airplane, although not as much as I would have liked. As for revolutionary... yes and no. As it turns out, Plane Crazy is a highly enjoyable, although a bit limited racing game.
There are three different race types to choose from: single race, ghost race and championship. In the single race, you race against eight other planes on one of the five courses, in the ghost race, you race against yourself, trying to beat your best time, and in the championship, you race all five courses against your computer opponents, the one with the highest score at the end wins. The ghost race is a bit special, so I will cover the other two first, starting with the single race. The courses themselves are absolutely gorgeous. They are 3D-acceleration at its prime. They are also varied in appearance, ranging from seaport docks, to Mayan temples, to the skyscrapers of Sin City. They are very challenging, requiring you to fly through city tunnels, narrow canyons, dodging skyscrapers and rock formation and, at the same time, keeping an eye on what your opponents are up to. There are power-ups scattered throughout the levels, which range from temporary bursts of speed to pseudo-weapons to use against your opposition. These weapons do not physically harm your target, they just screw up the controls for a while, one way or the other, which more often than not is equally devastating. Watch out though, the computer will use the same weapons against you. To top things off, you have a sonic cannon mounted on your plane. You only have three rounds per race for this weapon. The cannon is used on the terrain to either open up hidden passages or collapse buildings or geological formations. They are both very useful, either to shave a few seconds off your total time, or if a rival plane happens to be close to the object you are about to collapse. You can only use the sonic cannon on fixed points, and a cross-hair will appear over any valid target you fly by. There are a lot of them around, so save the shells for when they count. If your plane takes enough of a pounding, flies too close to an explosion, or hits a wall head on, it will explode. It is immediately replaced by a new one, and you can continue the race. You do loose quite a bit of time though, but there is no limit to the amount of planes you can loose.
If you play a championship, you will fly all five courses in a row. Each course will have a cash-prize for first, second, and third place, based on how challenging the course is and which difficulty setting you are playing on. A generous sponsor might also give cash to the first pilot to cross a certain checkpoint, or to the winner of the race. The money is then used to buy upgrades for your plane, making it even faster and more nimble. You can upgrade engine, wings, air-brakes and airframe. There are also some single-race specials available to buy, like invulnerability and power-up scoops. My favorite has to be the Prophet of Doom upgrade though; watching my opponents flee in terror from Stumpy was a joy to watch. They'd just as soon fly into the canyon wall than be close to me for another second. You may only keep your upgrades, however, if you finish the championship in one of the top three places, though you will still be allowed to keep the money you have earned regardless of your final placement.
You will also have to learn how to fly the plane to get the best performance out of it. For instance, the closer to the ground you are, the faster you will fly, as that is where the good air is. It is a difficult skill to master, as flying close to the ground usually means you bump into it from time to time. Your plane also has the tendency to climb when making sharp turns, which adds to your problems. Fortunately, the controls are very good, and even though there are no supports for rudder controls, the joystick works very well.
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