Neodori Forever is a throwback to early 90s racing games like Outrun but with a central focus on drifting like the excellent recent release Inertial Drift. It is a game that is chasing down a very specific vibe and it does this by putting aesthetic first, gameplay second. For me, that meant I enjoyed all the window dressing but was a little less convinced with the second to second gameplay.
The main mode of the game sees you driving down procedurally generated levels across various different environments. Every track is different even in this mode. This means corners, traffic layout, obstacles, power ups and the police. The trick with Neodori Forever is that your fuel is your health so if you crash into a car, police car, wall or central reservation – it will reduce your fuel. Fuel pick ups are your priority as if you run out fuel, its back to the start. There is a rare issue though that sometimes fuel doesn’t seem to spawn in a fair manner and some runs will see you run out of fuel before a pick up occurs.
Steering on this game is marmite and at the time of the review, do not use a gamepad. Controller controls are utterly broken so I could only play using my keyboard. You can steer a little using the arrow keys and the longer you hold the button the more violent the steering becomes but it is purposely slow and cumbersome to do much. This is so that you are forced into the drift mechanics of the game. Hit the space button and you’ll start drifting but the drift doesn’t seem to correlate to what you are expecting to happen. Once you start drifting, you seem to stay in the same lane of the turn rather than actually corner and so you can drift the wrong way and it is fine with that despite all the physics screaming that shouldn’t be possible. If you try to counter steer the car immediately spins out into a barrier and that’s fuel and health gone. This led me to actively avoid using drift as it didn’t make any sense to me to use it. Just steer early and you’ll avoid most issues because the car handles more like a ship.
It’s a shame because the retro stylings largely sell Neodori Forever as being a potential gem. The soundtrack is decent and the sense of speed is good. You can actively avoid police car chases but pick ups are tricky to spot because they appear so pixelated in the distance. You aren’t sure if they are a car or a pick up until sometimes its too late. If you are on an unlucky low fuel spawn run, that could mean a game over and that makes the game feel unfair. Lots of car designs are unlockable but they don’t seem to have any differences in stats at all. At the end of almost every second stage you’ll be asked to race another car but even though the object is to win, you don’t have to. You just have to stay in the cars vicinity to progress but the game doesn’t seem to acknowledge that either.
This leads me to the conclusion that Neodori Forever is style over substance. The style really works but the gameplay feels only skin deep. I’d rather have had less aesthetic and a drift system that felt responsive and like it mattered. It feels like the game is so committed to give a specific vibe, its niche is so specific it alienates everyone else not looking for this specific game. That makes it tricky to recommend as Outrun Coast to Coast, Horizon Chase Turbo and Race Condition all hit the arcade driving experience much better. Inertial Drift does drifting better. At times, Neodori Forever has some moments where everything comes together though. Stage 5 in the fields has barely any corners you can’t steer through and it feels alive and fun. Sadly, those moments were fleeting. Only go for this if you really want Outrun Drift Edition.
Review copy provided by developer.
Some frustrating control issues and odd design decisions make Neodori Forever feel like its style over substance.
Great sense of speed.
Visuals look great up close to the car and the different environments look nice.
Decent, if small, synthwave soundtrack.
Nice Outrun homage in the car selection.
Drifting feels very odd.
Broken gamepad support on launch.
Whilst each location looks great, nothing actually changes and so what you play after five minutes is exactly what you play after 2 hours.
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