You know how the infamous “Rainbow Road” tracks from Mario Kart are just, like, impossible? They twist and turn in ways that are hard to predict, and you always seem to be just a moment away from falling off the edge to your death. Now imagine a game with tracks that all have that same feeling, but where you had to manage three different cars on three different tracks at the same time. That’s Drive!Drive!Drive!, a ridiculously trippy and fun new take on arcade racers.
Drive!Drive!Drive! — which I’m just going to call Drive from now on — is at its core a fairly simplified racing experience. Each race is just one lap, and the AI you’re up against is pretty bad. Other cars will often smash into each other wildly and careen off of walls. Once I drove past two opposing vehicles that were flipped over on their sides in the middle of the road, unable to proceed. But the AI is actually dumb on purpose.
Here’s how Drive works. There are three different races going on simultaneously, on three different tracks, and on each one there is a car for you to control. But you can only actually control one at a time. Using the directional pad you can quickly swap between the three cars, and when you’re not in charge, the AI takes over. Since the AI isn’t very good at racing, this means that you’ll need to constantly swap between cars to make sure each finishes in a good spot by the end of the race. It takes some getting used to, but it’s a delightfully hectic — if stressful — take on racing. It’s sort of like plate-spinning, as you always have to keep an eye on your position on each track, while still managing to navigate the perilous turns ahead of you.
In most cases you’re aiming to come in first place. At the end of a race Drive combines your pole position on each track for an overall score. But the game also does a good job at mixing things up. There are arcade-y races where you’re trying to get a particular high score (you earn points by drifting, smashing into opponents, and pulling off jumps) and others where you’re trying to beat a specific time. One race type has you collecting giant diamonds spread throughout the track. Each requires a slightly different style of driving, so it rarely feels like you’re just doing the same thing over and over.
Drive’s races are both hectic and stylish. Multi-car pileups are common, and on occasion you’ll need to avoid cars falling from the track above you. The track designs can get pretty wild, with huge jumps, trap doors, and Sonic-style loops to speed through. And the whole thing is rendered with a colorful, low-poly, retrofuturistic style that makes it feel almost like you’re zipping through a sci-fi city ripped out of Tron. Meanwhile, the car designs are a seemingly contradictory combination of sleek and chunky, and feature aggressive names like “Retro Beast” and “Leviathan.”
Drive is almost as much of a strategy game as it is a racer. You may be driving a car, but the challenge often comes down to being perceptive and knowing where and when to put your focus. There’s also a lot here, with dozens of tracks spread across 10 worlds, along with a course creation tool where you can build your own courses or play those made by others. If you’re one of those folks who actually enjoys “Rainbow Road,” Drive takes that feeling and essentially triples it.
Drive!Drive!Drive! is available now on Steam and PS4