An Experimental Survival Driving Game? Yes!
Its not often that truly great game comes completely free of charge. Most free to play downloadable games come with the ever enticing addition of a shop pulling you closer to actually shelling out the cash you once though you were saving, but with the student developed racer, Nitronic Rush, you can be sure of a damn fine game that will never even stare suggestively at your pockets.
Nitronic Rush credits itself as not your typical racer, but instead an experimental survival driving game. Nitronic Rush doesn’t pit you against rival drivers as you run laps around a course, instead you boost, jump, wall ride, flip and fly around the twisting, often gravity defying tracks of a city hell bend on blowing you up. It really is that good!
Using early 90’s arcade racers as inspiration, the guys of Team Nitronic have pieced together an almost Tron-like art style where every track and object looks sharp, solid and glows superbly. The brief 9 track “story” mode sees the digital city come under attack by an angry computer virus, you then drive around the city tracks avoiding every piece of weaponry the rogue city flings at you until you arrive close enough to the core for you to slam your car, appropriately named “antivirus”, to restore/reboot the city back to its normal self. Obviously the story isn’t trying to win any awards, but then again, it shouldn’t have to, its an experimental survival driving game. The solid adrenaline rush of the game’s speed is infectiously fun and that is all that really matters– see what we did there?
While the story mode of Nitronic Rush may only be 9-tracks long, that isn’t to say the game ends there. Far from it. The most fun is found later, in the hardcore maps. Your ability to fly is nullified here. Instead you will learn the art of the boosted super jump and wall ride techniques to help you navigate these increasingly difficult stages. Hardcore mode features 5 new maps rather than re-hashed story content and really pushes the fun of the game to a new level – as well as the skill involved. Hardcore mode pushes your ability to focus, timing, reactions and judgement further as you will need to make use of almost every part of your controller to stay on the track and time your wall ride switches to perfection to compensate for gravity and your own speed. Be ready to hit that restart button a few times!
Even after the hardcore mode has been dusted off, there is no saying you won’t want to play the tracks again, but if you don’t, there are still more! Challenge maps are unlocked along with archived tracks rejected from the other sets. Challenge maps offer exactly what they suggest, stripping your car of features or just demanding you make use of a specific one as you make your way through more unique courses.
Still rolling content at you, the game offers time trail leader boards for you to compete with your friends, local players and even the times scored by the developers themselves along with some pretty interesting achievements and unlockable cars. Return the ever nostalgic highscrore board full of AAA and other three-letter names. Score board placements are based on both track completion time and the scores generated by the barrel roll stunts and fear-inducing tricks executed on the way to the finish gate with multipliers being handed out for unique stunts. Think diminishing returns. Lap perfectionists can choose to challenge the ghosts of their rivals to fine-tune routes and make use some of the shortcuts and alternate paths seen in the stages. Though you may want to avoid them just to keep the thrill ride going that much longer.
The controls feel incredibly solid and well polished with the intro screen itself recommending you use an Xbox 360 controller if at all possible (other joypads should work reasonably well). The snug fit of a controller will seriously help with car handling as, don’t forget, you are not just driving the car, you are almost piloting it at times. The learning curve of controls is almost non-existent. Each ability is taught within its own environment with more only thrown at you as you need them. The wall jump/ride techniques may take some getting use to, but this is generally down to your own ability to react quickly and your own timing along the course.
Applause go to audio director, Jordan Hemenway and assistant composer, M.J. Quigley, who crafted the games audio. Each course of the game features a new piece of music just as infectious as the gameplay itself, the catchy beats and rhythms go hand in hand with the pace of the game and still keep that adrenaline rush going as you steer your car over the road and into the digital subspace below. Of course it wouldn’t be fare just to applaud one guy. The whole team have done an incredible job of piecing together this gem of an indie racer. They should all be proud and buy themselves a huge treat. Seriously.
We were given review access to the game just days before the official release meaning if we actually found any issues, they may have been ironed out by the time you read this, but we didn’t find any! We hit the team up for an interview which we be posted up on the site shortly!
Team Nitonic of the Digipen Institute of Technology have done an excellent job with Nitronic Rush, fusing together a catchy soundtrack, glowing art style and fantastically fun, high-speed driving gameplay and barrel-rolling it into one well polished speedy ball. While it may not be winning any innovation awards or even any recognition from big publications, the game is ridiculously fun and given the fact that its free, really should be played by anyone with a half decent computer capable of keeping its speed running perfectly.
Final Score: 4/5
Nitronic Rush can be downloaded for free here.