Welcome to Nerve: The Fast and the Fuckwitted.
That’s not Nerve’s official subtitle but, despite the name, this near-endless runner isn’t about courage; it’s about being stupid for the sake of speed – and it’s great.
There’s a scrap of a story, here, but when you’re roaring along a cylindrical road, you won’t give a hoot. Your mission is to reach the other end of cyberspace as fast as you possibly can, dodging the many Tron-style obstacles Nerve throws at you (and handling the odd boss). It’s wildly disorientating at first, your spherical avatar remaining relatively static while the screen spins around you. But once you to grips with that, you can get to making some really, really, bad decisions.
It’s not that Nerve doesn’t give you time to think; you’re given a grade for how quickly you make it through each of the 100 or so stages, but you can hold down the “brake” button to negotiate (and occasionally zap) the obstacles at a relatively sedate speed. There’s no dwindling gauge that forces you to put the pedal to the metal; you can toddle along admiring the vast, glowing monoliths that would otherwise have murdered you.
But the need for speed nags at you, as does Nerve‘s dubstep soundtrack. How dare Nerve dole out a paltry “D”? So what if it actively tries to deceive you, introducing obstacles that switch position when you get close to them? So what if it takes a second run, remembering which glowing staircase shifts and which doesn’t? Nobody puts Baby Driver in the corner!
So, like a virtual Vin Diesel, you take the bait, slowing down only when you’re absolutely sure Nerve is about to take the top of your avatar’s skull off. Yes, you’re being sent back to the beginning of the stage every thirty seconds, but it’s so damn exhilarating you don’t want to stop. Every failure is a rush, even if Nerve did move that block one millisecond before you were clear. If you really stopped and thought about the tricks Nerve pulls, you’d be fuming – but you’re so hopped-up on adrenaline you jump right back on the driver’s seat.
Nerve is, like Terrawurm and others, a game that cries out to be shoved into an arcade cabinet. It’s not all that deep, but it doesn’t need to be; even when you’ve seen it through, the urge to shave seconds off your time will have you coming back for more. The arcade-influenced world leaderboard ramps up Nerve’s replaybility even more. Though, a little disappointingly, you can’t put your initials as “POO”.
It may turn you into the kind of idiot who shouldn’t be allowed behind the wheel of a car, but in Nerve, reckless stupidity is a hell of a lot of fun.
Nerve is available on Steam in Early Access. A free demo is available to try if you want to take it for a spin yourself.