GENSOU Skydrift review for PS4, Switch, PC

Platform: PS4
Platform: PC, Switch
Publisher: Phoenixx Inc.
Developer: Team Shanghai Alice/illuCalab
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

Despite the fact that Touhou Project is apparently an incredibly prolific bullet hell series, I?ve never played a Touhou Project bullet hell game. While I imagine this is the case for most people who aren?t fans of a very niche Japanese subgenre, in my case it?s actually kind of odd. See, GENSOU Skydrift represents the fourth Touhou Project-associated game I?ve played, but to date my experience with the genre has consisted of a mediocre dungeon crawler, a mediocre Metroidvania platformer, and a mediocre (to be generous) fighting game. GENSOU Skydrift is, naturally, a kart-racer (of sorts). Want to guess how it turned out?

If you guessed ?mediocre”, congratulations, you were able to spot the pattern. I will give it credit, though: it?s middling, but it?s also incredibly odd.

See, GENSOU Skydrift is kind of influenced by games like Mario Kart: Double-Dash, Crash Tag Team Racing, and Team Sonic Racing, in that you?re racing against other characters from the Touhou Project universe. What sets it apart, however, is that your characters — and none of the characters, for that matter — have karts. Instead, they have each other.

You read that right: this is a racing game where the barely pubescent girls ride each other. It?s in order to combine their magical energies, of course.

Somehow, though, despite that premise, GENSOU Skydrift is actually not remotely sexual. Rather, the girls ride each other like surfboards. Every so often, during the cutscenes between races, they?ll comment on how bizarre it is, so at least the game is aware of how weird it is…but still, it?s pretty weird.

Unfortunately, it?s not very interesting, even with that insane hook. This is due to the fact that the karts — er, the girls? — handle terribly. They don?t corner so well (as you?d expect, them being human beings and all, rather than karts), which is a pretty major drawback in a game where you have to drift around lots of really tight corners. In the game?s defense, of course, your AI opponents often seem to have the same difficulties, where they?ll slam into corners and putter sideways until the track straightens out again, but that?s not exactly a point in the game?s favour.

I will say this for GENSOU Skydrift, however: it knows how to make distinctive tracks. There are 20 on offer here, and each of them feels completely unique from all the rest. While I wouldn?t necessarily say any of the tracks are amazing, the game still deserves some credit for putting a lot of effort into making them look pretty distinctive. Admittedly, they often do so by going so over-the-top that Rainbow Road look sedate by comparison, but again: it?s distinctive.

That doesn?t mean that you have any reason to pick it up, though. GENSOU Skydrift may be essential if you?re a Touhou Project fan who always wondered, ?Hey, how would those girls work as racing karts?”, but for everyone else, there are plenty of other much better racers out there.

Phoenixx Inc. provided us with a GENSOU Skydrift PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: C-