There’s a special place in our games libraries for “timewaster” games.
I don’t mean that to sound derogatory – quite the opposite, in fact. There’s a whole catalogue of games that are fun to play in short bursts, but they’re not the sort of thing you want to invest hours at a time in. Games that you’ll play while you’re waiting for your potatoes to boil, or while a 50GB patch for another game installs. #DRIVE, available now on Nintendo Switch, is one such game.
An endless runner, #DRIVE has you, well, driving through various environments, with your only aim to get as far as you can. You only need to steer left or right and occasionally brake; the game automatically accelerates for you. You’ll need to pick up petrol along the way though, as well as repair any damage you’ve done to your car by driving through service stations dotted along the road. You’ll also need to pick up caps – the game’s currency – and avoid other cars on the road. Oh, and you’ll occasionally be inexplicably hounded by the police.
#DRIVE‘s control system takes a little bit of getting used to. Two options are available: one where you steer with the left stick, and brake/drift with the A and B buttons; and one where you steer left and right with the shoulder buttons (!) and brake by pressing them both together. Steering with the stick feels most natural of course, but the decision to map the brake/drift to the face button rather than the triggers is a bizarre one. You can’t adjust the controls any further than selecting one of those two defaults. Thankfully, you’ll quickly get used to whichever you choose.
There are seven levels to make your way through in #DRIVE, each based on a different real-world location. There’s ‘Dry Crumbs’ USA, set in the desert, and ‘Snowplough’ United Kingdom, that sees you driving through a picturesque village in the wintertime. You’ll also unlock Germany, Japan, Southeast Asia, France and, um, Mars. In order to unlock subsequent levels, you’ll need to earn ‘Postcards’, which you’ll accumulate automatically by getting high scores and completing tick-box missions.
There’s a decent range of vehicles waiting to be unlocked in #DRIVE, each with their own stats. Slower and hardier vehicles seem to be the best way to go, though there are a number of ‘fast’ cars available if you like more of a challenge. You’ll need to earn a lot of caps before you unlock many vehicles though; they don’t come cheap and caps take a lot of time.
Whichever vehicle you choose, running through one of #DRIVE‘s levels is fairly entertaining – providing you can stay alive. You have no control of your speed, of course, since the game auto-accelerates for you. You can brake, but can only use it sparingly – and usually that’ll be when turning into a petrol or service station. There’s purposefully low visibility in front of you, so cars can come out of nowhere. Despite having a damage meter, merely clipping the side of a car will completely wreck you. Game over. Same goes for slightly misjudging a turn and touching a wall or sign – easily done with the questionable controls, and often it’ll spell the end of your run.
That’s not to say it’s impossible to succeed in #DRIVE; it’s just frustrating when a run quickly comes to an end for something that felt out of your control. But when you do see a high score roll in, successfully keeping your car on the road for an extended period of time, it’s a good feeling. Switching off your brain and mindlessly dodging left or right can be quite a relaxing experience, if you’re in the mood for something a little more passive.
#DRIVE obviously won’t scratch the same itch that a fully-featured racing game will, but if you’re looking for something to waste some time with, there’s fun to be had here. For an endless runner game, #DRIVE offers a reasonable amount of depth, and unlocking all the locations and vehicles is reason enough to keep coming back, 10 minutes at a time.
#DRIVE Review: GameSpew’s Score