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 are also some really simple issues that bring down the experience as a whole.
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 is no online multiplayer, which is fine, but the single-player options are quite slim too. I appreciate that the AI has no rubber banding and so if you make a mistake on hard difficulty – you’re doomed. That is where your single-player run time will come from. 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, it is rounded into a beautifully cutesy world that is great for kids to lap up and around. It runs 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.
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 are more like 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 gameplay additions at all. Lastly, the grip is at a steady value regardless of what terrain you drive on. You can drive underwater and go at the same speed which begs the point of all the aesthetics in the first place.
Enjoy me on a launch week stream of my initial thoughts below:
Bears Can't Drift?!
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 are better and more in-depth karting games out there in the cutesy genre for you.
Cute graphics and some excellent style choices.
4 player split screen racing is where the game excels.
Lack of basic features and modes.
A few more tracks would have been great.
Why is half the on screen display off the actual screen?!
Some obtuse design choices bring down the overall experience.
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