One question I've been asking myself recently is why go forwards when I could drift lazily sideways, smashing through boxes, around poles and over ramps like some sort of wacky human wrecking ball? Absolute Drift [official site] arrives in the nick of time to play out this fantasy before I cause one too many pileups on the streets of Glasgow. It's a top-down minimalist driving game with a handling model that, to put it mildly, encourages drifting. Every minor turn has the capacity to become a full-blown mile-long powerslide or a quick 720 spin into an unceremonious stop at the nearest wall. Trailer and some quick thoughts after a little play time below.
It really is absolutely about drifting. Doing so will earn you points and points mean leaderboard positions. Speed's a minor factor - doing things quickly will get you more points - but a clean, slow-ish run of a track is more likely to spike your total than bombing it, messing up one turn and having your multiplier reset. Each course is a stop in the larger open world where various quick tasks have to be completed to move between areas. These serve as half-challenge-mode, half-tutorial, gently introducing you to what's possible and making sure you at least half-get it before you can move on. It didn't feel restrictive in the early stages, though I can see a harder task that's roadblocking you from progressing being very frustrating.
I can see that coming because I am truly terrible at Absolute Drift. I haven't been this immediately bad at a game since that time I decided I was going to get really into ASCII roguelikes. I find judging my momentum and controlling my direction really tough and though I could feel myself getting better, it was a long way off from being anywhere near as smooth as the trailer. I expect some will almost immediately understand it - particularly those with more arcade driving experience - but be prepared for a few bumps before you're pulling off sick moves. It is immediately fun, however, and the odd brief, accidental brushes with excellence feel superb and will make you want to play on.
The aesthetics put it over the edge. The blocky colours work brilliantly for a game all about avoiding things by as narrow a margin as possible and the constant skid marks are a lovely touch. The soundtrack is fantastic. It's the work of two artists, C41 and Nyte, and all the tracks selected bring a cool, calm ambiance to proceedings. They quite effectively mellow what could be controller throwing moments of violent crashing into try-again bumps.
It's difficult to wholly recommend Absolute Drift because for some it will be impenetrable, while others will find the N-with-a-car they've been dreaming of since 2004. It would benefit massively from a demo and I hope solo developer Dune Casu will consider updating the free prototype released last year. While representative of the game's style, it's even trickier to control than the final version. For nine quid off Steam or twelve bucks via the Humble widget on the official site, it's worth a punt if puzzle-driving's your jam.