For some reason, I keep picking to review games with punishing difficulty scales. I don’t know whether I’m discovering some previously unrealised sado-masochistic urge, though let’s be honest, it’s always been there. I’ve watched all the Sharknado films, more than once for example.
Despite being renowned as probably the worst gamer of the VultureHound team, I continue to put myself through hell. Sometimes literally. Still, in the words of Jonathan Coulton’s Portal 2 end credits song, “Here we are again, it’s always such a pleasure. Remember when you tried to kill me twice.” I wish it were only twice that FutureGrind had killed me.
FutureGrind is the latest output from young Canadian developer MilkBag Games, previously of such App Store delights as Disco Zoo. It concerns a futuristic form of BMXing where special bikes grind along rails where only matching coloured wheels can touch them. Almost like Tony Hawk and Joe Danger have collaborated to remake Tron.
What’s nice about the game is that it puts in work even in all the areas it doesn’t need to. The graphics are never flashy, they are bright, well-presented and have a sufficient sense of speed and motion that keep from any sense of repetition setting in. The music is energetic and works well with the styling to create a Drive-esque sense of joint aesthetic to proceedings and Mirror’s Edge-like story of corporate intrigue and sponsorship corruption is surprisingly engrossing for a series of text boxes and voiceovers that appear in between levels.
This sort of game lives or dies on its gameplay and I’m satisfied to report, it handles like a damn dream. At times it requires the sort of timing that takes ad nauseam tries to master, but once you get it going, it makes the experience feel as intuitive as anything I’ve ever played. Which is lucky because this is not a game that holds your hand or for a more apt metaphor, gives you stabilisers, it just puts you on the bike, pushes you away and hopes for the best. And that works to its favours, even though it is literally on-rails gameplay, it feels so free and dynamic that it’s hard not to be engrossed in.
If there’s one major downside to the game, it’s a certain lack of variation. It occasionally throws in a different form of bike for you to ride, but these feel more like cosmetic changes than wildly different elements to the gameplay itself. It’s more a game designed for short, sharp bursts rather than all-night sessions. This is also true of the particular layout for the Playstation controller. While efficient, it can cause strain on the hands after an extended play.
This isn’t the sort of game that’s going to reinvent the wheel but then it doesn’t need to. All it needs do is hold your attention for an hour or two now and then and it does that and more. If you’ve enjoyed any bike game, literally any at all, from Excitebike onwards, there’s going to be something for you here. Especially if you like neon. Frankly, I’d say people who don’t like neon might be the only people I might not recommend the game to.
FutureGrind is available now for PS4, PC & Switch