Retro Drive Revamped is an arcade racer that puts you at the heart of an 80s movie, replete with slacker dudes, American high school and words like ‘bodacious’. It does so while dripping neon-infused visuals and pumping out a soundtrack that feels resolutely authentic, almost crying out for you to drive with sunglasses on at night. Maybe your name is Ferris?
You come busting out of your school – literally busting out, with your not-Delorean screaming through the doors of the building – and give chase to your best friend and your girlfriend who’ve decided not to wait around for you, instead heading off to a series of cool locales that you always seem to just miss them at. I was starting to think that maybe she wasn’t my girlfriend after all.
Everything here is bathed in a warm Tron-like neon glow, and the synthwave soundtrack makes it feel as though you’re playing an FM-84 or Gunship album. You’re definitely playing the front cover at least. I really like the look of Retro Drive Revamped, but it’s the soundtrack that you’ll keep tuning in for, with some great synthwave vibes carrying you through it all from artists like Futurecop! and New Arcades. There’s the option of a jukebox from the main menu, with each track unlocking as you get ever further through Retro Drive Revamped, and it’s a great touch as you’ll want to return to them.
That said, Retro Drive Revamped has a gameplay loop that’s also worthy of the 80s, and in the modern day, it doesn’t always feel so much retro as aggravating. You drive the neon highways, aiming to complete each track in as fast a time as possible while dodging impediments. Green cars can be knocked into for a boost, while red cars slow you down, but then come the laser gates that instantly destroy your car. They move back and forth, up and down, forcing you to evade them, and while evading them can be a fun challenge, the insta-death sets you right back to the start of the track. It’s teeth-gnawingly tough, and your first car isn’t the easiest vehicle to drive. Don’t even think about what happens if you slam into the side wall.
And yet, you’ll find yourself going for one more go. You press restart, and try again. Because there is something strangely addictive, or hypnotising, about Retro Drive Revamped. Perhaps it’s like the not-VW camper van that occasionally appears with its strange smoke that slows time down, messing with your mind, but I couldn’t give up. I had to complete it.
There is progression to be had, collecting points that litter the track which allows you to unlock new cars. From your rubbish not-Delorean through to a wonderful not-Knight Rider, the seemingly insurmountable top times become more manageable, and you start to feel like the game isn’t deliberately trying to hurt you. Just quietly trying to damage you instead, but in a thoughtful way.
There are a few nagging annoyances that need ironing out, and the display can be overly fussy at times. Each repeated run includes the ghost of your previous best run, which is fine, but the car doesn’t need to have large lettering above it to let you know it’s your best time. The same thing happens when you pick up one of the VHS tape collectibles, and while nods to Blade Runner and Ghostbusters are fun, popping up in the middle of the screen while you’re trying not to crash into things is not what anyone needs.