Air Twister Review

Air Twister

They say the human brain can only process so much information at a time. Yu Suzuki aimed to defy this notion with the 1985 hit arcade game, Space Harrier. There you are, floating in a neon abyss, jetpack humming its manic tune against the backdrop of an alien soundscape that’s equal parts cosmic symphony and electronic meltdown.

The protagonist is an interstellar bounty hunter on a mission: blast every last one of these bio-mechanical monstrosities that dare to cross your path. It was an early rail shooter and moved along at blistering, break-neck speeds, but intensely engrossing thanks to its brain-melting action and visuals.

While Shenmue 3 failed to resonate with gamers, Yu Suzuki wanted to show he still can do arcade action better than anyone. He’s returned to rail-shooters, and this time he aspires to deliver one of the best of its kind. Does Suzuki still have the touch that made him a superstar? Can this new surreal and far-out arcade-like rail shooter live up to Space Harrier? Find out in this Air Twister review!

Air Twister
Developer: YS Net
Publisher: YS Net, ININ, United Games Entertainment GmbH

Platforms:  Windows PC, iOS, macOS, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (reviewed)
Release Date: November 10, 2023
Price: $24.99 USD

I’ve seen things that would make your head spin, and my head is still spinning. Air Twister is so insanely fast and furious that it’ll make your eyeballs bleed. This is a game of reflexes and instinct, a test of your ability to adapt to the ever-changing chaos that surrounds you.

Air Twister is a rail shooter that demands your full attention and your complete immersion in the experience. When you’re finally victorious, when you’ve vanquished the last of the geometric alien invaders, you’ll feel a surge of adrenaline. The explosive visuals look like they are using every particle effect known to man when you’re in the heat of a frantic shootout, making the imagery appear hypnotic and almost dreamlike.

Trying to understand the story of Air Twister will be impossible when you first play it. The first time will feel like a fever dream inspired by the works of Jean Giraud Moebius.

Suzuki threw everything and the kitchen sink into the strange and nonsensical wonderland of Air Twister. If you look carefully, you actually might spot a kitchen sink.

The story appears to be about alien invaders attacking a surrealist fantasy kingdom and the female protagonist is some kind of hero who sets out to save everyone.

All details about the setting and concepts are explained in unlockable data entries. It is too bad the information couldn’t be expressed organically and in this manner, the narrative seems completely arbitrary – as if it was made up after the fact.

Not that anyone would ever play Air Twister for its story or characters, because the real star of the show is the visceral action and imagery.

This is a spiritual successor to Space Harrier; the control mechanics follow the same kind of aiming where there is no reticule and players simply must aim by moving their character in the general vicinity of the target.

Foes zip by in clusters or groups and they fire massive bullets and the goal is to avoid getting hit while blasting anything that moves. There are two modes of fire; the standard tapping spray and pray or the Panzer Dragoon-style lock on homing laser.

To play effectively, gamers must learn which is more effective at any given moment. Regular shooting is fast but it leaves the hero vulnerable. Homing lasers give her a chance to evade while also being offensive, but there is slight a cool down.

The action is very fluid and the abstract enemies can move inhumanly fast and incoming bullets are trickier to anticipate than they appear.

Levels move quickly and rise in intensity at a steady rate. There is almost no chance of making it to the later stages with the starting health pool and abilities. Gamers will need to spend their earned star points on expanding their HP, learning the slow-mo ability, and maybe a better gun.

The unlockables are done in an ‘adventure map’, where paths branch off onto other collectibles. Things like costumes, weapons, the aforementioned slow-mo ability, and even a turbo mode can be earned from here. The map is huge and trying to get everything would require gamers to replay Air Twister‘s story mode several dozen times.

This kind of repetition is a huge grind, especially since later nodes on the map can cost several hundred stars to open. At the very least, there is a sense of progress every time you play Air Twister since no matter what, it always feels like you are working towards something. It is too bad the arcade modes don’t unlock any rewards for playing them.

There is also a ticket system that gives players the chance to play bonus games that earn more stars. This is utterly perplexing since it should have been a wager system and how to earn more tickets isn’t made clear. It is possible they can be earned by clearing challenges but most of them only unlock hairstyles and pallet swap costumes.

The music of Air Twister is a captivating blend of Queen-inspired instrumentation, soaring vocals, and surreal soundscapes that perfectly complement the game’s fantastical visuals.

Composed by the enigmatic Dutch musician Valensia, the soundtrack is a wild and unpredictable journey that seamlessly transitions from bombastic rock anthems to ethereal synth-driven melodies.

Valensia’s music is characterized by its dramatic flair and operatic grandeur, reminiscent of Queen’s iconic hits like Bohemian Rhapsody and We Will Rock You. The soaring vocals, layered harmonies, and intricate guitar work create an atmosphere of epic adventure and heightened emotion.

One of the most striking aspects of Valensia’s music is its ability to evoke the surreal and otherworldly nature of Air Twister‘s world. The music’s unpredictable nature mirrors the game’s fast-paced and action-packed gameplay.

Unexpected tempo changes, sudden shifts in instrumentation, and the introduction of dissonant harmonies keep the listener on edge, creating a sense of excitement and anticipation.

Valensia’s music is an integral part of the experience. It elevates the gameplay, amplifying the sense of adventure, danger, and grandeur that permeates Air Twister‘s world. Unlocking tracks in the adventure mode also give linear notes about each piece, as well as the lyrics.

Not everything in Air Twister works as intended. Regretfully, as lurid as the visuals are, the HUD graphics look incredibly cheap and are messily laid out. The stink of mobile game design is all over these UI elements and was implemented to cater to gamers on tablets and smartphones. It looks cheap and doesn’t fit the maximalist design philosophy of the bizarre fantasy setting.

Gamers will get a lot of bang for their buck in Air Twister. It’s bursting with features and side modes. There are a ton of cosmetics to dress up the main character and she even gets to ride around on a fish.

Air Twister is a very engrossing rail shooter that keeps luring gamers back for more. The steady stream of bonus content is a satisfying beckoning mechanism that makes replays rewarding. On top of the intrinsic rewards, it is gratifying to improve and master the levels with Valensia’s soaring music as the backdrop.

Air Twister was reviewed on PlayStation 5 using a code provided by ININ. Additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy can be found here. Air Twister is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), iOS, macOS, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5

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The Verdict: 8

The Good

  • The eclectic and infectious, Queen-like soundtrack by Valensia
  • Utterly surreal and strange visuals
  • Fast paced and quick 12 levels
  • Tons of unlockable modes, abilities, costumes, weapons, and bonus levels
  • Highly addictive rail-shooting action

The Bad

  • The confusing ticket system and stars can't be earned in the arcade modes
  • Trying to unlock everything is a tiring grind
  • All story and lore is explained in unlockable text entries
  • The disgusting mobile game UI graphics


A youth destined for damnation.

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