iis DRiiFT wiin or faiil?
Review written by
July 29th, 2009
DRiiFT Mania is a new racing game from Konami. While there are already several other racers on the WiiWare service, it's safe to say that DRiiFT takes a different approach from them. Anyone who remembers oldies like Ivan Ironman's Super Off Road or RC Pro AM will immediately feel a familiarity with the style of play on offer here. It's all about short tracks and small cars. You're given an isometric view of the track, top-down for all intents and purposes, zoomed out sufficiently so that the whole track fits neatly on the screen.
No doubt there's a simplicity to the gameplay. There aren't any items or weapons to be picked up, you just race. Often when two vehicles collide, a pool of oil will result, causing other racers a bad time. Other than that, the hazards are all presented by the tracks themselves. These varied courses have ramps, speed strips, perilous drops and in some cases ice.
Disappointingly, although the game supports a few control schemes, when playing as a single player you can only use the Wiimote on its side. The other options are reserved for multiplayer. Konami has opted not to use any motion controls at all, which I feel is probably for the best in this case. As you'd guess from the title, drifting around bends plays a big part in races. Four classes of vehicle are included, these being small, medium, heavy and special. The driving physics for each class is significantly different, but they all handle pretty well once you're acquainted with their style. Even the tractors and buses can pull off a mean drift without too much effort. Getting to know which are the best vehicles within each class is a case of trial and error, as no stats are available to see. The vehicles are all nameless too, making some of them hard to tell apart on the selection screen.
The single player game is broken down into five tournaments. The first four have three unique tracks each, themed on the city, hills, desert and snow. The final tournament is four races long, but its tracks are all reused from earlier on. Ranking in the top 3 at the end of a tournament gets you a trophy, gold through bronze. For each gold trophy achieved you will unlock something. These unlockables are mostly extra vehicles, but additional modes and tracks for the multiplayer segment also pop up. You can expect around 6-8 hours of gameplay collecting all the golds with the various classes of vehicle.
Given that you have six cars skidding around a relatively small track, some races tend to have a claustrophobic feel. Getting off to a shocking start is often unavoidable, as each vehicle jostles for position in a confined space. The game is forgiving in this sense though, you can readily catch up if you put in some good racing, which lessens the frustration. That said, some of the later tracks are designed in such a way that one slip over the edge will cost you the race, a feature I can see would grind some peoples' gears.
The graphics aren't pushing the envelope, but more importantly the game zips along at a decent frame rate which rarely drops. In terms of art style, the tracks and vehicles are all bright and colorful, semi-cartoony and look nice. Each player is given a very distinct color so as to avoid any mix ups which could otherwise occur driving such small cars.
If anything, audio is perhaps the weakest link here. The music/muzak used in-game wouldn't feel out of place in an elevator. Sound effects used for engine revs, drifts and collisions are similarly soft and border on underwhelming. The beginning of each race is counted down with a slightly wacky voice, that's about as memorable as it gets.
While going for the gold cups is enjoyable, DRiiFT Mania is undoubtedly multiplayer-centric. There's no online, but up to 8 racers can compete locally. You won't necessarily need to spend a fortune on controllers for this either, even a simple Nunchuk can be used alone (stick for steering, C button accelerates, Z for reverse). The Classic Controller is also supported, but no love for the GameCube pad. Racing against friends is a blast. DRiiFT provides a reasonable challenge for core gamers while still being accessible enough for casual players to pick up and try. Having the whole track visible at once helps too, alleviating the need for any confusing split-screen setup and encouraging player interaction. Six modes of play are available, including staple favorites like standard races and team races, as well as unusual ones like "potato", where drivers try to keep hold of a potato for as long as they can.
In summary, if local multiplayer is your thing and you often have gaming company, then DRiiFT Mania comes recommended. Solo gamers should get some fun out of it too, although the lifespan will likely be cut shorter in that case.
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