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The Good, the Fad and the Ugly: Distance

Writer’s Note: This was written the week of 9/11/16. At this point the game was still in its Early Access format. Because of this, information below may or may not remain relevant in the future.

Saw blades, large cylindrical grinders, Pumpkins and Lasers. These may sound like standard sci-fi and horror film props, but would you be surprised to find them in a racing title?

In this GFA review, I present Refract Studio’s Distance. A Survival Racer.

One that pits you against the hazards of the track in addition to the traditional clock. There are no laps, nor items. It’s you, and the track. The aforementioned hazards are all standard obstacles that will stand in your way, minus Pumpkins. They’re ready to slice, dice and completely destroy your car. However, you have the advantage of a rocket-boosting-self-repairing car. That last part can only be done at specific Checkpoint/regeneration rings however. As long as you have at least one wheel you can keep going. So, yes, driving half of a car (or even less) is a mechanic in this.

Did I mention this car has the ability to jump, and take flight as well?

The controls are simple and easy to grasp. Although, I can say from experience that Rocket League did somewhat mess me up. The Boost option is normally where Jump would be. Although remapping the controls is easy.

The HUD is, rather cleverly, displayed on the back of the car itself. Every now and then a trick notification will show up, but this is only for a moment. Boost and flight are tied together. The engine can, and will overheat if left to run for too long. Pulling off tricks, or going through rings will cool down your engine, keeping you from exploding.

In terms of the car itself, it handles incredibly well. Not just on the track, but in the air. This thing may as well be a spacecraft. With not just a rocket motor on the back, but rotational thrusters as well. They’re not just for show though. The road at some points may quite literally flip out.

If you weren’t already sold on this car, its colors can be customized as well.

As seen above, the game itself is set within a rather mysterious floating city. There’s really no sign of human life other than large propaganda-esque signs reading things “Salvation in Science” or “Together We Progress.”

Considering everyone seems to be gone though, this society obviously failed. Without God we would quite literally be nothing. However, self separation only leads to ruin. Something that Jonah, and this city learned the hard way.

Without giving away too much, whatever it was that caused everyone to leave appears to still be out there. One of the first things noted is that an “Anomaly” had been detected in Sector 11.
It’s your job to find it.

You’ll be travelling through a world with design inspiration from things like TRON. If the Wipeout games sound familiar, this visual and musical style should be of no surprise. It’s electronic, but not harsh dubstep. It’s more in the ballpark of the Rocket League soundtrack. The world will also illuminate and pulsate according to the music. All music is also able to be replaced with custom tracks.

So, I could be barrelling down a course to F-Zero’s Mute City theme.

Currently the Adventure mode mentioned with the vague plotline above is incomplete. However, an extremely robust Level Editor and Automatic generator both exist to allow for completely new races. The community has created some excellent levels. Some are obviously better than others, but in my experience one has to work in order to find the more iffy levels.

There are also a few other additional modes. A One-Life run through a small course, a “Reverse Tag” that acts like keep-away and finally, Soccer. So, Rocket League without Boost and flips if you will. These are fun little additions, but they are just that. Additions.

Although, if you search “Horror Racing Game” an article about this game is the first result. The developers have noted that they do intend for it to be somewhat frightening. Mainly with this Tweet. Now, I’m no fan of the horror genre, unless you consider the Ghostbuster-esque title Luigi’s Mansion a horror game. Either way I’m oddly excited for this.

In terms of non-horror Spooky things, the sole achievement available for this game is called “Pumpkin King.” You have to smash every pumpkin on the Spooky Town Reverse Tag Map.

In its current state, Distance has a heavy focus on gameplay, rather than plotline. Because of this the rating itself will be given on the core gameplay and visual/audio design rather than level structure or plot.

Distance earns a Good rating, with a score of 9/10. Easy to grasp gameplay along with a great visual and audio style lead to something I desperately want to see brought to Arcades. The sole reason I can’t give this a full 10 is due to it currently being in beta.

PS: Distance is the spiritual successor to Nitronic Rush. A free student-made game that set the foundation for this title. Some of the original developers are currently working on Distance as well! Check it out here.

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