I had a chance to play Lightfield back at PAX West and had a bit of a mixed reaction to the demo I got to play. Now that the game has been fully released, it’s time to see how the full version plays out. Lightfield is a 3D racing game where you pilot one of several different ships through racetrack that also serves as an obstacle course. Much like Tron, you leave a beam of light behind you, but unlike Tron, the light does nothing beyond show you where your opponents are and where you’ve previously been on the last lap.
You’ll pilot the ship through what is essentially an F-Zero course on drugs as you’ll be taken into various directions and get turned upside down several times in an attempt to make you both dizzy as hell and a master of space flight. The game has one good advantage that others in this genre don’t, and that’s the snapback mechanic. No matter what happens in the course, you’re constantly flying and never touch the ground. However, the snapback feature will take your ship and “snap” it to a surface to make it go faster.
This mechanic sets you up to become one of the fastest racers on the course, but it also comes with the backlash of running out of ground too quickly and forcing you off course if you’re not paying attention. That being said, there’s great potential for you to set new race records and win each race in order to unlock new races. You can also unlock races by scooping up experience, which is in the form of tiny diamonds scattered throughout the course which will automatically gravitate to you when you pass by them.
Once you unlock a new Lightfield course, you’ll have the run of four levels of difficulty. Much like Mario Kart, the course itself doesn’t really change—but the speed of the ships and the intelligence of the computer opponents does, making it much more difficult to snatch a victory. If you truly want to, you can play time trial or you can play what I call “timed search” where you can fly around and seek out the hidden collectibles on every stage that will unlock new features.
The biggest issue I ended up having with the game was simply the steering and maneuvering. Controlling each ship is a pain and the controls don’t help you out at all. You’re using the two trigger buttons and the right joystick, which takes some getting used to and not even the tutorial can prepare you for the challenge. You’ll often find yourself fighting with the controller to do what you want. I get why it was put in here, they wanted to create a steering system that was different from other racing games. But if one of my opponents is in my hands, it defeats the purpose to my playing the game.
I enjoyed Lightfield at PAX, but I knew the game needed some work. A couple months removed and it still has the same issues I had before with the system. I wish they had taken the time to go in and create a traditional steering system for people who either can’t grasp it or eventually get frustrated with it and need a change of pace. That being said, it’s still a pretty good racer and worth your time to check out if you’re looking for something a little different.
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