Bears Can't Drift!? (PlayStation 4) Review

By Albert Lichi 15.11.2016

Review for Bears Can

Bears Can't Drift!? is a kart racer that is quite obviously inspired by such greats as the Mario Kart games and, surprisingly, Diddy Kong Racing. The bright visuals and cuddly designs give the impression of a kart racer intended for small children, but perhaps there is something deeper beneath its fluffy exterior? Is Bears Can't Drift!? a philosophical thesis that delves into the greater meaning of the universe? Can bears drift? Cubed3 finds out once and for all.

One look at Bears Can't Drift!? and it gives off the impression that it is low budget shovelware meant to sucker kids who love Mario Kart. It resembles a lawyer-friendly fake game that might be seen in some movie or TV commercial with its bland and unimaginative character designs. Looks can be somewhat deceiving because Bears Can't Drift!? shows some level of ambition. Just by booting up the game it can lead to some confusion and disorientation because there are no menus or even a proper title screen. Is this jarring creative choice a mistake or an oversight?

Screenshot for Bears Can't Drift!? on PlayStation 4

The game begins and control is given immediately, and without any explanation the player-character is free to roam what is supposed to be a series of hubs, kind of like the ones from Diddy Kong Racing. Even the difficulty is selected this way in the starting hub, as illustrated by three distinct roads that represent a difficulty selection. This is either the most genius difficulty selection process or the most idiotic. Playing on the simplest mode just means driving down the easiest road, and to play on the hardest means having to earn it by clearing an extremely challenging jump, which requires mastering the most brain-dead drifting mechanics. The problem with this menu-less system is there is no explanation for any of this. On the other hand, it is admirable for Strangely Named Studio to have so much faith in its players, but in some areas, they absolutely fail to communicate utterly vital information, such as the data deletion, which anyone who explores may do to their progress.

After getting used to the weird language that Strangely Named Studios establishes, the next step is navigating the various hubs and driving into portals for courses. Not counting the hubs, Bears Can't Drift!? has about 12 stages, but it feels more like three, since these tracks are utter slaves to their respective themes: forest, arctic and old-timey China. All of the tracks lack any personality and are devoid of life. Even the various playable bears are just skins and all play identically, with no unique personality of their own - possibly a social commentary how, at the end of the day, we are all the same bear on the inside and who we are on the outside is meaningless.

Screenshot for Bears Can't Drift!? on PlayStation 4

Much like the Mario Kart games, there are power-ups throughout the tracks. Expect the usual suspects, like missiles, a variation of the banana peel, speed boost, etc, but the game also introduces stacking items up a second level. Some of these powered-up items make sense, like the super missile, but two chameleons combining to make a chicken do not, and the point is not clear. The background track music is always a tame and laid-back boring elevator composition. Obviously, this is a statement on the banality of life.

The tragedy of Bears Can't Drift!? is that the graphics are actually pretty good, and aside from bland designs, there is some real vibrancy to the look of the world, with some solid animation and effects that prove that the Unreal Engine 4 can be really effective when used right. The only time when the levels have life in them is during the eating competition, which involves a bunch of bears driving freely in the courses eating food that rains from the sky. The eating competition can make the courses feel lively thanks to the racers coming in from all directions darting towards a large carton ham or a couple of stray missiles - a meaningful statement on the dog-eat-dog race of life... but with bears instead of dogs, obviously.

Screenshot for Bears Can't Drift!? on PlayStation 4

It should also be mentioned that other modes are activated in the hub areas at the push of a button. It is confusing because there is no explanation for any of this, in keeping with the weird mysterious non-language direction theme of Bears Can't Drift!?, because as everyone knows, bears don't read or speak.

Bears Can't Drift!? costs about $9.99 and for that price, it is fine for children. Strangely Named Studio actually did manage to make an attempt to put a good amount of content and features into it. The core racing is not challenging on normal mode, and it's not too difficult to out-lap the bear in last place halfway through the second lap. There are a few neat little secret areas and shortcuts peppered through the hubs, and while it isn't amazing, it is something to keep interest for the kiddies who love to explore. The courses have hats hidden in their routes in a vain attempt to allow some variation on the stock bears. There are some glaring design choices that are resulted due to the obscure choice to have no menus, such as how easy it can be to delete all progress and labyrinthine hubs that hide portals to the courses. Can bears drift? Sort of; these bears drift as well as actual bears could probably drift, which is not at all.

Screenshot for Bears Can't Drift!? on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Bears Can't Drift!? is not a bad game. It is actually quite interesting, mostly due to how bizarre the design choices are, which give it a weird mystery box quality to it. It engages curiosity and invites to keep on playing and see how deep the bear hole goes. While the hole is shallow, it is a compelling hole that looks cute and has up to four-player split-screen. Bears Can't Drift!?'s core game is just really boring at the end of the day, and as it turns out, nobody cares if bears can drift.

Developer

Arran Langmead

Publisher

Strangely Named Studio

Genre

Driving

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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