Thursday, April 19

Review: Brakes Are For Losers [Nintendo Switch eShop]


One great trend with indie games is seeing classic arcade-style gaming make a comeback. The top-down racer, generally best remembered tied to games like Super Sprint, is one that used to be quite popular in the arcades. Since it’s also an old favorite genre of mine when I heard news of Brakes Are For Losers having some traits in common with it I was excited. While it doesn’t quite deliver what I was hoping for there’s still some fun to be had with it, especially if you are playing with some friends.


As the name of the game implies this is a game all about going full speed ahead at all times. Removing braking from the equation this generally means you’ll either be trying to swerve around turns or you’ll end up riding the walls. In order to motivate you to try to drive a little more under control your car will take damage for every impact and will eventually get disabled for a few seconds while it gets an on-the-spot repair. If you’re able to get to the pits this will generally be a little quicker and an added benefit is that your 3 boosts will then be refreshed as well. To throw a little chaos into the mix on competitive tracks random power-ups will be strewn about with a variety of effects that range from funny to annoying. The combination of these and taking damage everywhere keeps things unpredictable, though as a series of races progresses you will be able to purchase upgrades that you can use to try to make the game work a little better for you.

Your mode choices are single-player Challenges, where you can try to get hot lap times or completely avoid hitting any walls for an extended distance (good luck) to earn flags. As you earn enough you’ll then unlock even tougher tracks to be successful on. All things considered I’d say these modes are roughly for masochists, but if you enjoy them good on you. There are then the races with a Quick Race if you just want to jump into something quick, a Championship mode that has set rules and tracks, or Custom Race where you can play with more of the variables to suit the racing more to your liking. These can be played solo or with friends, with bots then being able to fill in the blanks up to 8 racers. The issue with them is that they either seem hopelessly incompetent or they’re whooping up on you, so it’s a bit odd and unbalanced for the most part so they don’t make very good opponents.


I think my greatest issue with the overall experience is that the dial for the lack of control is set too aggressively to the low end. It isn’t just that you have no brakes, you also have no ability to feather your acceleration. To make matters worse the control feels pretty well entirely digital and there is no ability to adjust the sensitivity on your steering so you’re left with mostly settling for ramming into everything and only being half able to control anything. I appreciate arcade looseness but the lack of almost any nuance also makes the game’s longevity feel much more limited. The tracks themselves are pretty varied, and some have elements that help them to be a little more interesting, but driving on them is often still more demolition derby than actual racing.

If you enjoy very loose and more unpredictable arcade racing, especially if you have some friends that agree, Brakes Are For Losers has some fun to offer. Probably better played in bursts rather than long play sessions you could probably enjoy it without people realizing there’s only so much they’re able to control. The more you try to dig into it though, especially if you hit the challenge modes, the more apparent the control shortcomings become. If it would either allow some nuance in your acceleration, or at least make better use of analog controls, I think it would find a better balance to appeal to a wider set of racing game fans. As it is I think the most vital key to enjoyment is some raucous friends to play with where the craziness can at least lead to some laughs.



Score: 6.5

Pros:
  • Quite a few tracks
  • The Custom Game option allows for setting up things to best suit your preferences
  • Upgrades allow for some amount of differentiation and taste

Cons:
  • The lack of nuance in both acceleration and steering really remove much hope for applying skill
  • Challenge modes aren’t a great match for this style of control
  • Bot AI is all over the place, making playing with friends almost mandatory to have some consistent fun