Bears Can’t Drift!? Review

Initial impressions of Bears Can’t Drift!? are ones of puzzled annoyance. Following the lead set by Wander and Kick Off, it is yet another indie game where there are no instructions. While that may seem a little picky – this is after all a kart racer – the complete lack of text throughout the game means you spend the first half an hour or so trying to decipher the iconography. Everything from game mode to difficulty is selected whilst driving around in the kart, and it took a few goes before I knew I had even selected a difficulty setting; you choose it by racing through a gate moments after the game dumps you in the world without so much as a by your leave.

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The decision not to use text is perhaps understandable as it is seemingly aimed at the younger player, but the designers really should have made things a little clearer; Whilst driving around the hub world – clearly influenced by Crash and Diddy Kong Racing – I found a button with an animation of a floppy disk being put in a bin looping above it. What does that mean? Delete save game? And would anyone under the age of twenty even know what a floppy disc is? Well actually no, I sent a screenshot of the icon to my 11yr old nephew and asked him what he thought it mean, and he messaged back “Throw away the pizza”.

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Once you have decoded the images and worked out how to select a difficulty, level, and game mode then things do pick up. There are three modes; traditional races, time trials, and Picnic mode, all of which are playable on any of the levels, which are themed around snow, lava and the other kart racing staples.

Whilst there is no online functionality there is local couch co-op for up to four players and as with any game, adding some mates instantly increases the fun factor. The traditional races are best played with chums, although the lack of signage, or indeed a “You are going the wrong way” indicator, means players can easily get confused over the long and winding tracks and spend half a lap racing the wrong way before they spot their mistake.

There are animal themed pick ups but in reality they are your standard fare of missiles, shields and speed boosts, and then the AI ranges from utterly stupid to extremely devious depending on the level of difficulty. There is no rubber banding as far as I can see, if you screw up early on the other racing bears aren’t going to give you a chance to catch up.

The time trials seem a little pointless, not least because the timer was half hidden off the side of my tv and there is no option to resize the screen, but Picnic mode is a bit of fun. In this version of the game you race about against human or AI opponents but rather than zip along the track you have to hunt down tasty snacks. First bear to scoff a weeks worth of doughnuts wins and it’s a lot of fun racing a friend towards a giant spinning hot dog whilst whacking them with a homing goldfish. There is a neat touch in that the bear increases in size as he scoffs the food, becoming increasing obese and barely fitting in the tiny kart.

There are other small niggles that could be ironed out of the game, for example you can drive into water and under it with no apparent slow down or effect, and the tracks are far too long and complicated. Also some of music tracks barely last a minute before looping so you have to listen to the same cheerful but increasingly maddening tune eight times during a race and there’s no option to turn it off.

However, throw in a few mates and some beers and it becomes a fun pick up and play party game. As well as appealing to inebriated adults I can also see BCD being a favourite with younger players, the bright colours and cute bears could be lifted from a CBeebies cartoon. There are loads of cute touches such as the bear looking around if you don’t touch the controller, as well as hats to collect, and trophies to be collected including a platinum.

What’s Good:

  • Lots of fun in multiplayer.
  • Simple yet delightful graphics.
  • Tracks hold many secrets.
  • Bears in karts. Awesome!

What’s Bad:

  • Single player is meh.
  • Controls are very touchy.
  • A few bugs and glitches.

Bears Can’t Drift!? started out as an Ouya game and has been created by just one person, Arran Langmead, who has stated that he had “no real programming experience” before creating the PS4 version, so it is understandable that the final game could do with a bit of a polish. It’s a good first attempt and you can clearly see a lot of love and effort has gone into the game. If you have some spare cash and some young children to entertain then you could do a lot worse. It’s a game with bears in it, it shows a poo when you are in last place, and I’m in a good mood, so Strangely Named Studio’s first game gets an encouraging…

Score: 6/10

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Written by
News Editor, very inappropriate, probs fancies your dad.

3 Comments

  1. Platinum trophy, nice colours and a bit of fun. If it’s reasonably priced and/or has a good demo I’ll probably get it.

  2. It had to be Tuffcub reviewing this game, wouldn’t have made any sense being anyone else.
    I noticed this on the store the other day, was going to pick it up for my son but watched the video and it just seems very similar to beach buggy racing, which he’s already got.

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