Every now and then, a game comes along that pleasantly surprises you. Against the backdrop of generic military shooters and kids screeching at Fortnite, comes something like Journey or Flower, or a cathartic experience like Concrete Genie. Well, now you can add #Drive to that list too.
On paper, it looks like an endless runner. If you’re unfamiliar with what that is, just remember Temple Run. That simple concept of endlessly running (funnily enough), collecting trinkets along the way and seeing how long you can last. Well, this is it in car form.
But far from that feeling of a tacky mobile port onto console, #Drive manages to turn it into something artful. It can be both calming and peaceful, as well as downright cheap and unfair at the same time. So buckle up, fill that tank up, as we hit the open road that is the endless driver…
The core gameplay loop in #Drive is simple enough: pick a car, pick a level… and off you go. You have no control over how fast you go, only that you can brake and drift. Braking has a cooldown between uses, whilst drifting lets you slide out the way of traffic or into a garage in a pinch.
You start off with the dusty roads of America, but collecting postcards on each attempt allows you to “buy” new destinations to visit. The next is snowy England, complete with red letterboxes and traffic lanes going the correct way. You move on to hilly South Germany, the colourful fields of France and the twisty, windy roads of Japan. There’s an absolutely funky end level you can work towards… but I’m not spoiling it for you.
Your mission, each time you hit the open road, is to go as far as you can. You have to manage your fuel and car integrity with roadside garages… and that’s it, essentially.
Drive In Style
Where #Drive excels in terms of fun and longevity is its vehicles. Rather than sticking you behind the wheel of one generic car and saying, “That’s your lot”, there’s a vehicular toybox to play with.
You start off with what looks like a Volkswagen Polo, which is fine and dandy. As you get some more miles and currency (in the form of bottlecaps) under your seatbelt, you start seeing what else is in the catalogue. Camper vans, roadsters, jeeps, sedans… there’s a lot. There’s even one of those robotic Japanese mailbox/postmen-on-wheels to unlock, should you persevere.
Stick with it and you’ll unlock the biggun’s: the Porches, Testarossa’s and Jaguars. All unlicensed, of course, but if you know your 80’s supercars, you’ll recognise them. Thankfully, cars are more than just cosmetic. Each has their own stat, ranging from how fast they go or how well they stick to corners. The best thing to do is experiment, and you’ll have plenty of time to do so.
Outrunning and Gunning It
Rather than just a boring, “how far can you go?” driving game, #Drive does spice things up a bit. For one, there’s a fair bit of traffic to contend with. Same-way isn’t too bad, but it’s the oncoming traffic that’ll keep you on your toes. There’s the aforementioned fuel and damage mechanic to keep tabs on, too. And there’s the police.
As you’d imagine, the fuzz don’t like you speeding through idyllic countryside and endangering others. So, they’ll chase you. Luckily, you can pick up a unique distraction item that gets them off of your back for a time. In America, it’s doughnuts (because what else…), in Germany it’s a pretzel… and so on. It’s quite cool, provided you aren’t against cringe stereotypes.
You can also pick up a mystery item along the way, too. Randomised, it could be a temporary snowplough the demolishes anything in your way for more bottlecaps. It might be a brief respite from danger and remove all traffic, which is nice. However, it could just as easily be some learner plates that slow you right down. Which isn’t a great combo when the cops are looking to run you off the road. That’s the gamble of the mystery box…
I Think The Tape Deck Is Looping…
However fun as the game can be, there will be a point when repetition starts to sink in as in any game. #Drive is a one-note game, that’s for sure. The only thing that changes are the instruments you play it on.
What does get stale very quickly, though, are the insufferable quips from your driver. It’s the same problem that old superhero games had: they only recorded so many lines of dialogue, so you’ll hear them more often than you’d like to. In America, it’s fine, in an obnoxious-American-stereotype kind of way. But when you’re cruising through peaceful Japan, the brashness is jarring.
Missing a garage can sometimes be annoying, but hearing “We’re running out of gas!” when I’ve only used 10% and couldn’t make the turn for crashing is a bit annoying. However, it’s not a deal breaker. You can’t turn it off in the options, but you’ll learn to deal with it. Just imagine someone’s in the back of the car doing terrible Sonic the Hedgehog impressions.
My only other grumble is the fiddly-ness of the camera options. I thought Pro Cam mode would switch it up with different angles. Instead, it follows the corner, not the back of your car, resulting in some overcompensating at time and a bit of disconnect with your cornering. Again, not a deal breaker, just something to get used to (if you want).
Heading Out On The Open Road
I didn’t think this would work as a console game. Admittedly, the trailer left had me hooked with its art of rally (yes, it’s a lowercase title for a game) looks, then rug-pulled me with its actual gameplay. I was initially going to write it off as a “deceptive mobile game moonlighting on a console”.
In essence, it is. It is the vehicular equivalent of Temple Run, or even the Sonic one, but without the taint of mobile gaming. There’s no nasty subscriptions or microtransactions looming about. You can upgrade your cars with little “Coolness” add-ons without spending any real money.
Which is what made me grow to love #Drive. It’s got the mobile game “pick up and play” attitude, without the usual nastiness behind it. It’s a game that you can jump on and drive for as long as you can manage, at any time. Urgent phone call? Fine, just crash and reap your rewards for that drive. Going out in an hour? Awesome, try and earn some more postcards or money to unlock that sports car you’re set on buying.
A game like this perfectly suits the Switch: the funky colour palette, the chill beats, it’s all there. The dichotomy of frustration and zen (more the latter if you play it on Easy) are worked in well, as is that “just one more go” attitude needed for arcade-style gaming.
It has both its calm and frustrating moments, but when it looks as stylish as it does, you can’t hold it against it. A mobile-runner without the trappings, it compliments the Switch perfectly. Kick back, keep your eyes peeled, and just #Drive.
#Drive is available now on Nintendo Switch (review platform) and mobile.
Developer: Pixel Perfect Dude
Publisher: PM Studios (console)
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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