Bears Can't Drift!? (PC) Preview

By Athanasios 29.10.2015 1

Review for Bears Can

Like with most independent productions, Arran Langmead had a pretty rough time acquiring funds for his project: the ode to old-school kart racers, Bears Can't Drift!?. After hitting a wall with his original goal to release it on OUYA, this became a one-man job, and since Langmead is no programmer, it would be designed from scratch in Unreal Engine 4's Blueprint system. Besides receiving $14,000 from Unreal Developer Grants, a co-developer, along with a sound/music composer, soon joined the gang, and, therefore, it was decided that the time was right for a small sample of their work to be shown to the world in order to get some feedback, but maybe they should probably wait some more before doing so.

Early Access takes many a form. Some developers offer a 99% completed product, while others just provide something where everything but the core mechanics are half-done, broken, or not available at all, and while the accumulation of feedback is the end goal in both, it's harder to do so in the second occasion, especially when something is as incomplete as the game at hand, although it is supposed to be ready in only three to four months. Obviously, Bears Can't Drift!? wants to be the next big kart racer, next to Mario Kart 8 and the like, but it's way behind the competition at the moment.

Before going deeper into the fun aspect, though, what is currently in store, and what is missing? Langmead says he hates menus; therefore, everything is done through a hub area, where it's possible to choose world, game mode, and level. Was that a good decision? Not really. Menus may not showcase the graphic engine of a title, but they tend to be faster and less tedious than driving towards the portal that leads to a level, especially when the route is full of obstacles, or endless pits. Furthermore, an options menu is a must, even in such an early state, and it would be of great help here, since the - painfully cheerful - music volume is at 100% and sound effects at 1%.

Speaking of levels, only four out of 12 were available at the beginning of this preview, with three more added in the meantime, and all are pretty disappointing. While technically every area looks awesome, the existence of the Unreal Engine 4 cannot replace level diversity and character. Take the four levels of the first world; a forest level with a windmill, a forest level with a bridge, a sunset-lit forest level, and, finally, a night-time forest level.

Screenshot for Bears Can't Drift!? on PC

The worst thing about the courses, however, is how they affect the gameplay, and, to be more precise, the challenge factor. Simply put, these must be some of the most non-demanding racing tracks ever because their roads are extremely wide, and the twists and turns available will never really challenge anyone that isn't an absolute beginner with using a gamepad. On the other hand, the AI tends to be super capable of outrunning the human players, whose karts seem to have only two speeds: on and off.

Even if the courses were great and the AI balanced, though, a kart racer must have something that differentiates itself from the competition, and this one takes the now-standard mechanic of power-ups and weapons that can be picked up while driving, and introduces an item combo system. What that means is that it's possible to pick the bird item (speed boost), and mix it with the fish (rocket launcher), to create… well, that's the problem. Out of the 14 available combinations, most don't work, and the function of those that do is a tad hard to understand.

There is a standard Cup race, a Time Trial mode that feels pointless, since all courses are a piece of cake, and, finally, there is a Picnic mode, which has karts racing from randomly placed food to randomly placed food, with the winner being the chubbiest one - and note that it's possible to play with up to four players in split-screen. The thing is that all bears are, currently, identical to each other in terms of handling and pros/cons, and while some alternative characters are available, so far their differences are just of an aesthetic nature. In conclusion: UI/AI/gameplay tweaks aside, Bears Can't Drift!? misses a lot of the key ingredients that could help it stand out.

Screenshot for Bears Can't Drift!? on PC

Final Thoughts

Yes, the version experienced was the Early Access one, and therefore, it's probably too soon to judge it so harshly. The thing is that, apart from showcasing what the Unreal Engine 4 can do, this tiny sample of Bears Can't Drift!? isn't very encouraging for something that will, supposedly, be completed in the coming few months, especially when an impressive amount of things must be added and/or adjusted: an options menu, a couple of truly diverse characters (and karts?) to choose from, more and better tunes, less dull-looking and easy-to-race-through courses, and, finally, a better implementation of the power-ups. Hopefully, this small and not-that-tasty snack will pale in comparison with the full meal.

Developer

Strangely Named Studio

Publisher

Strangely Named Studio

Genre

Driving

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  n/a

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

One of the funniest game I own

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