Kirby Air Ride... I must opinion-ate my feelings toward this game.
I wouldn't say it's underrated. It's great for people who don't play video games a whole lot because of it's very simple mechanics but the game itself feels more rushed than anything, the graphics are colorful but feel less stylized and more lackluster than anything. Gameplay can be unbalanced at times. And I don't like games where you're forced to choose specific characters or cars or whatever simply because the other selections all suck and can't compare.
It's agreeable that it's saving grace is it's different modes of play; Top-Ride and Air-Ride mode are both enjoyable. City Trial can be a blast for some and a chore for others. But I'll get onto city trial later.
Both Top-Ride and Air-Ride are clearly the developers main focus. The selection of tracks in Top ride are just enough, each with their own uninspired name and environment to complement the simple mode of play. The arcadish-style of this mode and the sheer hectic nature of 4 racers in a cramped environment with powerups spawning left and right to attack the opposition truly allows it to stand on it's own, and it is a blast. Air-ride is a smidgen more complicated, however there are about the same number of tracks you can choose from. It's a slight let-down for me due to the limit in selection, however the actual racing mechanics are fairly straightforward, uncomplicated, and aren't anything to complain about. Fairly original idea and it's done well enough to be enjoyable.
City Trial is where the game has it's most promise but also it's most flaws. The hub world feels very small, not giving you a whole lot to roam around in. It gets very old quickly, especially if you focus on collecting and unlocking as much as you can. The unbalanced nature shows it's really ugly side here. There's practically no limit to how much you can power up your machine before an event, which can cause your machine to behave in undesirable or even uncontrollable manners. The events are what City Trial stands on, and there is a healthy variety of them in this mode (aside from all the races, if I wanted to play air ride mode I would select it), however since the events are completely random you will never know if you're effort was worth it or if it was a complete waste of time. This mode feels more like an afterthought. put in at the last minute. Either you completely love this mode or despise it with a passion.
It feels like it has It doesn't have much standing out for it other than it's easy (a trait of kirby games) and it's one of the 3 or 4 games for the cube that has LAN compatibility.