“The planet this car is from no longer exists”
Distance, to say the least, is an atmospheric racing platformer title from Refract Studios, a collection of developers from DigiPen who shaped the core elements of their previous title Nitronic Rush into a fantastic Early Access hit on Steam. “Atmospheric racing platformer” is the very understated way they chose to describe it, where as I would call it “The most absolutely insane vehicular cyber-horror game you never knew you wanted.” It plays pretty tight, too.
A quick overview, the main campaign for Distance is about the spooky adventures of a super cyber-powered car and its battles against an evil machine robot heart… thing. The details don’t matter so much as the tone the campaign of this game strikes, and that’s just the start of it. The story is a neat distraction from the driving bit and it’s something I never really thought I wanted in a racing game until now. The gameplay is the true star of the show and thankfully holds its own if you’re not into the dystopian car apocalypse, but why wouldn’t you be? Distance really banks hard into the “platformer” bit of “atmospheric racing platformer”, and honestly it’s the part that sticks with me the most after finishing it. At this point, most vehicle operating modes in action-adventure games should have a new model to look to when designing something like the next Batmobile. The super car you’re tearing around in is equipped with all kinds of super gadgets, like a booster, jumping, wings for flight, and grip thrusters that can adhere your car to walls and ceilings, which you will do often, as you go racing towards the goal.
That last bit is actually where all the difficulty comes to life in Distance’s campaign, as the boosting and flying bits are simple enough, but when you gain the thrusters, Distance suddenly becomes a no holds barred rollercoaster ride. When you’re driving for your life, all of a sudden, ANY flat surface becomes a road, and your reflexes become the only thing keeping your car from becoming a rolling coffin. Whole chunks of road just go missing, maybe even an entire dimension, and you have to jump your car, pivot 90 degrees to align with the wall, kick on the grip thrusters to stick your car to the wall, and then time the jump to the next ramp all in one fluid motion. I can’t tell you how often I got stuck trying to do a 180 degree flip, COMPLETELY inverting the car, with about two car lengths of space to do so. The difficulty curve has some noticeable spikes, but one you adapt to it, the tricks you start pulling off are nothing short of mesmerizing.
And that only touches on the campaign, and in the time since Distance launched it’s kickstarter and went into Early Access, the game has become so much more with a community that churns out stages in the level editor, a stunt mode to practice pulling off absolutely bonkers tricks, challenge and arcade modes, and of course a garage for customizing your ride.
And even if you, for some reason, were not into the 80’s synth vibes of the game’s soundtrack, a personalized MP3 Boombox Mode that was in early access should make its way into an update soon.
My final review of Distance: its good. There’s a surprising amount of content for what you’re paying for, and the creepy campaign is worth the ticket for admission alone. Absolutely worth a pick up, even on their website to directly download or Humble Bundle if you happen to not want to buy it on Steam!