Protip: The title of the game may or may not be truthful.
Sure, you can always get a joy about racing real-life cars with pristine, realistic handling, but can you shoot a beehive out of the back of your Ferrari or BMW? I didn't think so! That's why I prefer the kart racer. Well, that and the genre's usual more newbie-friendly gameplay and creative track design! Bears Can't Drift!? came to my attention as one of the few kart racers available on the PlayStation 4 (it's also on Steam). With so few kart racing games on the platform, it was my hope that Strangely Named Studio's Bears Can't Drift!? would be a fun game. Was it? Yes, but just "bearly."
The first thing you'll probably notice about Bears Can't Drift!? is the total lack of menus save for a pause menu, which doesn't do much explaining of the items in that menu. (And talk about how annoying it is to try to move the cursor to the restart race button.) Perhaps this was an effort to streamline the game, but it actually leaves for a lot of confusion. Sure, the beginning of the game seems simple enough to understand: You're thrust into a world with three paths-- one with a cute baby bear face, one with a normal bear face, and one with an angry bear face. It seems understandable that these are the various difficulties of Bears Can't Drift!?, and successfully going down the path or road with the corresponding bear face gives you the corresponding difficulty. All right, that was easy enough to figure out.
|This is the road that enables Hard difficulty. Make it around this hairpin and jump the gap to enter Hard mode.|
Bears Can't Drift's three hubs, containing four themed tracks each, are much too big. For a game that wishes to streamline itself, here would have been an excellent part of the game to have smaller hubs or the choice of menus. As it is now, there's simply too much distance between race portals, and most of the time after you finish a race, you're kicked back into the hub. This usually means you're kicked to a place away from the portal to the race you just finished or lost at. Since portals contain three different modes for each race, which I'll go into later, generally when you finish one mode, you want to jump into the portal again to do the same mode. And since tracks don't even have names to them, it can be hard to remember what portal goes where.
|The hub worlds of the game connect the races together, but they also make for tedious travel.|
As I touched upon earlier, there are three modes per track for players to participate in. The first is a simple race, where you compete against 11 AI bears in go-karts in a three-lap race to the finish. The second is a time trial, where you compete against the game's record times by trying to get the best lap time in a given race. Finally, Picnic is quite the creative battle mode, where you try to drive into various food like fruit and desserts, munching them up. As you eat more food, you grow in size, making it harder to see what's ahead of you. The first player to fill a food gauge wins the match. Of course, being a battle mode, other opponents can hit you, causing you to lose a significant portion of food in your bear's belly.
Bears Can't Drift!? is obviously a misnomer of a name for the game, as these bears in the game certainly CAN drift, and they do it oh-so well. In fact, driving the karts in the game feels very responsive and tight. Drifting, as you'd probably guess, is a major component of Bears Can't Drift!?, making you not only be able to cut around turns and corners well, but it also enables you to speed faster through the races than you would if you were driving without drifting. Thus, it's a good idea to try to drift as much as you can as you race. While driving does feel good, Bears Can't Drift!? is far from perfect when it comes to collision with other racers, objects, or the environments. Crashing into another racer results in both of you coming to an abrupt and unrealistic stop, while when colliding with some environmental obstacles, I got caught on the scenery, having to fumble with driving forward and in reverse to get loose. Sometimes these collision issues can cost you a race while other times they're just slight annoyances.
|Drift as much as you can to maintain your kart's fastest speed.|
Another important part to a kart racer is having competently designed tracks, and Bears Can't Drift!? offers twelve unique tracks that range from quite fun to very confusing. For the latter, the game doesn't have a mini-map for tracks, nor does it even tell you when you're going in reverse. Some tracks have it so that it's very easy to get lost and not know where to go, even with the usually hard-to-see transparent overlay attempting to highlight the main path. While this isn't an issue in the forest races, it can get quite frustrating and bewildering in the ruins and arctic areas of the game. That said, Bears Can't Drift!? otherwise features some good ideas in its track design, such as clever shortcuts that can definitely shave off precious seconds in the time trial mode.
|This is one of the forest tracks in Bears Can't Drift!? (In case all the trees didn't tip you off.)|
|You can criticize Bears Can't Drift!? for a lot (and I did in this review), |
but you can't really be negative about its visuals.
[SPC Says: C-]
Review copy provided by Strangely Named Studio.