Twilight Drive places you in a car with hooks that can swing itself around corners like a lasso. I’ve seen this game mechanic in racing games before but Twilight Drive uses it to focus the mind over 40 time trial obstacle courses. What starts out as something of a curious oddity sadly doesn’t deliver on thrills and spills and its all down to the way the car handles.
Each of the 40 tracks are viewed from a top-down perspective but the tracks are based in hills, mountains, rocky roads and other gradient-based areas. Your car has a painfully slow initial drive forward and can barely move left or right by steering alone. It is when you attach yourself to corner pylons with hooks that the game gets interesting. There are three types of pylon. One keeps your speed, one increases it a little and one increases it greatly. As you hook onto these pylons, your car will swing out wider and wider and when you let go, the momentum needs to carry you forward as fast as possible.
Each track is set up to try and catch you out by placing quick pylons next to tight corners without them and so you’ll be slamming on the brakes or trying to drift around these corners. The problem is that drifting isn’t a gradual lean – its all or nothing – and the steering requires you to quickly keep tapping the analogue stick or keyboard for it drift at all. Then you need to quickly turn into the drift. I’d say for every drift I managed successfully, 20 of them resulted in a spin instead. It is absolutely infuriating. If you slow down too much, you can’t beat the time limits to unlock later tracks. Go to fast and the game doesn’t help you in any way to stay on track.
This nudge style of steering makes every run feel a bit like a lottery but it is not the only thing that doesn’t help. The perspective means that sometimes you are losing speed going up a hill but the time trial ghosts don’t have the same issue. It also means you struggle to understand the gradient and how it will affect the handling of a car as the gradient isn’t visualised well. To switch things up you also have boost pads, jumps (which require a certain speed tolerance to land) and wind gusts but I found these the least of my problems. I simply couldn’t get any consistency in when a loss of grip would occur.
There is a nice game in here somewhere but it needs a ground up re-examining of the car handling. This is challenging, it’s pure hit and miss. Outside of that, each track does have an online leaderboard that work nicely and you can customise the colour of your car. One area that the game excels in is its accessibility options though. You can slow down the speed of the game to a crawl so it can be played at an even slower pace if you like. You can also turn on a high contrast mode, zoom in to magnify things, turn on menu voice activation and have an adjustable field of view so your sight can focus on specific areas of the track. It is genuinely fantastic that all these options available.
Maybe the game will click for other players and Twilight Drive just wasn’t a game for me. The level of frustration that drifting gave felt out of my hands and put me off. I won’t be going back to it for a long time but I hope the game does well and develops into a fuller, more rounded experience.
Review copy provided by developer.
A great idea wrapped up in infuriating controls and unsatisfying gameplay.
Cars with hooks to slingshot around is a good idea.
Online leaderboards for time trial honours.
Superb levels of accessibility.
Feels slow and cumbersome at all times.
Steering is horrific.
Track design rarely has any flow and the car handling makes it worse.
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