80’s Overdrive Review: A Totally Tubular Throwback

Disclosure: This game was provided to us by Insane Code for the purpose of review.

Something very prevalent in the gaming industry is Retro throwbacks of all shapes and sizes. Whether it is your favourite game getting remade in some way or a throwback like the many boomer-shooters that have been released, there is a clear market for throwbacks of any kind. And one genre that has been making a splash in the throwback scene is the racing genre. The throwbacks really started when Horizon Chase Turbo released a few years ago and now it seems many other games are trying to relive the glory days of early racing games. Including today’s game 80s Overdrive.

It was released some time ago on the 3DS and Switch but I am playing the steam version that came out on November 19th. 80s Overdrive harkens back to some of the great racing games that came out in the 80s like Pole Position and most notably Outrun. Where the game is a 2D driving game, uses sprites, and has a rolling background as the camera is more towards the ground. It was completely revolutionary for the time and it still looks very cool from an aesthetic perspective today.

The aesthetic of the game really lives up to the games name as everything is soaked in neon 80s colours, flare and excellent sprite work. It defiantly screams the 80s, in the same way, the Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon does and it’s hard to fault the presentation in any way. The game even has its own little modern charms to it with modern emojis that pop up from time to time in the game and locations that don’t necessarily look like they are from the 80s. Regardless there are no gripes for the games graphics, frame rate or load times as it was all sleek, quick and well done. As nice as the game looks, it wouldn’t matter all that much if the game was not fun so is it? Yes, for the most part, the game is an enjoyable time.

Image Credit: Insane Code

The Game features 2 primary modes: the main career mode and a time trial outrun styled mode. The career mode has you select a race from this nicely made map and off you go. You are in a race. There’s always you and 9 other cars all vying for that win. Your overall goal is to be number one in the rankings. By winning races you go up said rankings and in this case if you aren’t first, your last.

There are five vehicles to choose from, however only one of them is available from the start, and the other 4 are purchasable through the games in-game currency. In addition to this, the player can upgrade each car, and give it nitro that can be used twice during a race. To get money, you have to win these races or do the side objectives that randomly show up. Sometimes when you select a race you’ll be given a side objective such as damaging another car, collecting some items along the track or just throwing the race for a lot of money.

These side objectives add a little variety to the game as the only style of play in the career mode is racing. The tracks are all quite varied with lots of twists, turns, rolling hills and lots of traffic that gets in the players way. There’s a handful of environments presented in these races, however, none of them actually have any unique attributes to them. For instance other than the background there is no difference between the beach levels and the city ones. Or the forest levels from the Roman looking levels. It’s purely for background purposes which honestly is disappointing. How about some sand on the beach or desert levels, or maybe some unique traffic on the city levels, or maybe even trees in the road on the forest levels, just something!

Image credit: Insane Code

In addition to this, the game does feature pedestrians and police as well. The traffic that shows up in this game though is quite obnoxious for a few reasons. The first is that its traffic, and as someone who lives in California a state known for its heavy traffic, this hits too close to home. The pedestrians are just awful drivers usually swerving all over the place and driving way too fast to be pedestrians. And the biggest issue with them is that oftentimes they lock onto the player and will at the last second go right in front of the player and can essentially railroad them. Often times just quickly getting in front of the player leading to me crashing into them and either slowing down tremendously or just crashing off the road entirely, usually forcing a restart.

The police and other racers do this to the player as well, however, this makes sense it’s the police and people trying to beat you in the race, not just random traffic. It comes off as irritating more than anything else like you would’ve hoped these drivers knew what turn signals were. Or even common sense. Something that compounds this issue is that the collision detection is questionable for the most part as there were many times where I clearly did not even scrape something and ended up crashing or being slowed down significantly as if I did crash head-on into it. Most of the time it seemed accurate but there were instances where it was not very good.

Lastly, due to just the nature of the career mode, it’s lacking racetracks and annoying pedestrians that left the intelligence out of artificial intelligence the game could easily become repetitive. However, the game is short enough that it ended before it did clocking in around 3 or so hours to beat completely. But that is where the time trial mode comes into play where it is like outrun as you outrun the constantly ticking down the clock. But it is sadly extremely easy, lacks any tension and can become quite boring quickly. Ultimately it seems like a good idea but is not executed all that well.

Image credit: Insane Code

There is a track editor so if you are feeling creative there is something for you. I, however, stopped being creative when I was done with kindergarten so I do not fall into that camp. Now despite all these flaws, the game does have one saving grace that is easily the games biggest strength: the music. The OST is fantastic in the game and the music is honestly just good for the soul. A wonderful synth-wave soundtrack graces our ears with this game that is just powerful. With 18 awesome tracks each one really pumped me up for the race and I will be coming back to some of the music present in this game. The music is the most hype part of the game, and it needs to be listened to by anyone who likes retro-styled music.

In conclusion, 80s Overdrive is not really a remarkable experience but it is fun for the most part. It does have some issues, including lacklustre tracks, wonky collision detection, traffic that has drivers that seemingly do not possess a drivers license, and only provides around 4 hours of fun. But those four hours were enjoyable for the most part. The game is priced at $10 (£8.99) full-price on Steam and for that asking price, you could do a lot worse, especially in the racing genre. While it is not as good as the racing games of the 80s it is a fun harmless throwback that anyone who likes driving games should check out. There’s a fun racing game at the end of this finish line. 

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