Format : PS4 (tested) and PC

Released : August 2016

I love a kart styled game more than most and as a self-styled racer that seemingly never wins, I enjoy it when fun and playability are given priority over realism and grit. Enter Bears Can’t Drift – a one man team whom originally developed a game for Ouya but soon switched it to PC and PS4. As a first effort, this is a great title with a fair bit of love in it, but there’s also some really simple issues that bring down the experience as a whole.

bearscantdrift01
The environments do look lovely and out of a kids book

Designed to evoke 4 player split screen fun that has been captured and nurtured by the indie community (thank you!), the game shines at its best when you have friends around. There’s no online multiplayer, which is fine, but the single player options are quite slim although I appreciate that the AI have no rubber banding and so if you make a mistake on hard difficulty – you’re doomed. The themed tracks are long and complex with plenty of shortcuts to try to get the upper hand. Despite the namesake – Bears really can drift although it’s actually quite difficult and clunky to do at times when the tracks are so tight and twisty. Getting the balance is tricky but often drifting isn’t actually faster because you aren’t really given a speed boost when you pull it off. As a result, I’ve played whole multiplayer sessions where no one drifted at all and no one was worse off for not doing so.

Whilst the graphics have a lovely low-poly charm in places, its rounded into a beautifully cutesy world that is great for kids to lap up and around. It run’s fast and smoothly and that’s impressive. Handling wise, I found that the karts themselves oversteer quite easily and so you really need to feather the analogue sticks around some of the longer corners to make sure you get the right angle. However the issues aren’t with what is in the game, it’s more about what’s lacking.

bearscantdrift02
One of its flaws is the lack of difference in grip between terrains and water which makes the world feel empty

There are three modes. Races are your bread and butter and come with the usual power ups. Picnic mode is about collecting fruit and stealing them from your opponents and is surprisingly really fun. Time trial is useless however as the clock is half off the screen and you cannot resize it. Also missing are wrong way signs – and you’ll be pointing the wrong way often as some tracks form mazes (the ice ones). Also missing is any control mapping, proper options or any vague tutorial or text in the game anywhere. When the game opens you are dropped into expansive world hubs. However you have no idea that driving up a certain road changes the difficulty so you are left guessing on icons and wondering if you’ve missed a control button. In a similar vein, whilst the hub worlds are nice they add nothing to the game whatsoever because they contain no game play additions at all. Lastly, grip is at a steady value regardless of what terrain you drive on. You can drive under water and go at the same speed which begs the point of all the aesthetics in the first place.

bearscantdrift03
4 player split screen is where the game shines and has its staying power

Positives

  • Cute graphics and some new theme work
  • 4 player local multiplayer is a good laugh

Negatives

  • Lack of basic features and obtuse design choices bring down the overall experience
  • Single player lacks depth
  • Not enough tracks or variations of them
  • Why is part of the on-screen display off the screen?

Conclusion

Whilst there’s nothing strictly wrong with Bears Can’t Drift, it’s got a weird personality that doesn’t really make it top of its game. Picnic mode is its standout feature and is fun for a while with friends. For its karting appeal though,¬†you can do a lot worse, but there’s better and more in-depth karting games out their in the cutesy genre for you.

Enjoy me on a launch week stream of my initial thoughts below:

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