Time trial racing is an art. Games like Trackmania provide crazy tracks with stunts and high-octane speed for you to go against the clock with other people in a giant server full of other drivers. Neodash takes time trial racing in a slightly different direction, adding online leaderboards to everything you do and adding a wall of death chasing you across the level. You can’t go slow, you simply won’t make it. Full boost and full drift is the only way to survive.
Neodash has a synthwave aesthetic in spades. The lights pulse to the music (I’m sure it is synched to the BPM of the soundtrack) and neon lights, crazy grass and deadly lasers fire off all around you as you hurtle down tracks at the speed of light. The sense of speed is great but you don’t realise just how fast you are going until you need to turn. Going forward gets you to a medium speed but after you hit a peak, you’ll start to decelerate. The only way to increase your speed in Neodash is to drift. Drifting maintains the current speed you have the momentum you trigger the drift and gives you a boost to dramatically increase your speed. Once boosted, hit drift to maintain the speed and keep on going. Chasing you along is an energy wall that will explode your car if it catches you. This means you cannot go slowly to make it to the line carefully, you’ll just get caught. It also means everything is risk vs reward as you can keep increasing your base speed by drifting constantly and boosting. Yes, you can lift off the throttle to reduce the speed for a tight corner or hairpin but the best times are flat out and/or spotting alternative routes through levels.
Tracks aren’t just corners though. Like Rollcage, you can flip your car onto the walls and the ceiling as you drive through tunnels. You’ll also have ramps and jumps to contend with where at the press of a button your wheels flip out into wings to glide your way from platform to platform. Gliding feels good and stable but it’s also slow. Once in the air, you can use your boost to try and course correct a jump but it is wasteful and often ends up with a game over. Nowhere was this more frustrating for me than with the bounce pads. They are slow and require precision perfect lineups to bounce off them the right way. It could be me just being rubbish but any levels that required multiple bounce pads chained together were huge bottlenecks in Neodash’s difficulty. I lost so much speed on the bounces that the wall of death would catch me. Other times I’d just be flying off the track, hitting reset. Likely to be a me thing but worth noting that if you get angry at hitting restart over and over to beat the challenge, Neodash will punish you.
Everything is connected to online leaderboards and given a score alongside a time. This keeps you constantly looking at your position and wanting to jump up the boards. Points convert to the Neodash shop where you can buy car customisation such as paint, lights, wheel styles and livery patterns.
Whilst the campaign is meaty, Neodash also provides a level editor and a user creation centre. The level editor offers everything you need to create levels in Neodash just like the developers. Being able to pick and drop elements onto the map, scale them and then decorate them is relatively straightforward. It would be fantastic if there was an ability to snap track elements together though. Lining things up is tricky, especially as the camera takes a bit of wrestling to get into useful positions. Once built, the player validates the course and it is placed online for everyone else to race. As a player, you can download anyone else’s creations and these come with their own leaderboard and 5-star rating system. Some of the levels are superbly put together showing that if you have the patience, Neodash gives the tools to extend the game’s lifespan for potentially years and years to come.
I’ve had great fun with Neodash. Its challenging, responsive, arcadey handling suits the fast and frantic action. Drifting is predictable and stable. Gliding is cool. Bounce pads made me rage. It all comes together in a very addictive package that will bite anyone who has the time trial bug as every course has its leaderboard to flaunt in front of you. Extremely enjoyable at a great price point too. Don’t sleep on it.
Review copy provided by developer.
Time trial racing greatness. Easy to pick up but with tons of challenge and a level editor for longevity. A game to invest in.
Handling is sturdy and predictable.
Sense of speed and immersion is fantastic.
Some very well designed courses.
Leaderboards for everything makes this a time trialist dream.
Level editor and user creation extends Neodash's lifespan tremendously.
Bounce pads are a pain (might be me though).
Some quality of life improvements to the level editor would make this very accessible to many more people.
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