Slowdrive is an adorable mix between racing game, puzzle, and simulator created by OneBraveRobot. Racing games can often struggle to set themselves apart in a genre that is flooded with similar titles. The solution is often to make the game that can give the player the greatest sense of escapism with flashier, faster, and photorealistic cars and racetracks. That, or to go the Nintendo route and fill the map with so many twists, obstacles, and items that the simple mechanic of driving doesn’t always stay the focus. In these games, you often play a driver with sharp leather gloves and the look of a winner. You dream of the finish line, and you are going to get you there fast as they can. When you start up a racing game, you don’t exactly expect this:
But of course, Slowdrive is doing something different than your typical racing game. As the name implies, this game isn’t about speeding your way through courses. Instead, the player’s car is a low-poly jalopy not long for the speed-racing world. Slowdrive tells the story of a Sloth who, due to a literal butterfly effect, finds himself away from home. His goal is to go home, and yours is to get him there on four finicky wheels. There are four sets of levels, each taking place in a different environment, and a total of 60 tracks to race on. For the most part the tracks are brief, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t challenging. In order to continue through the levels, you have to earn a certain number of stars by reaching time goals for each track. Some of these goals can be difficult to meet, and often you find yourself just a fraction of a second away from advancing, which makes for a nice challenge.
The game’s Steam page appropriately warns players that Slowdrive’s “physics model is not quite arcade so watch your speed!” In order to navigate Slowdrive’s twisty tracks and cross the finish line in time, the player has to learn to ease up on their trigger finger when necessary. On top of that, every level contains a well hidden collectible leaf that can only be found if the player takes their time to explore the course backwards, sideways, and forwards. These leaves unlock paint colors and patterns that can be used give your car a personal touch in the workshop, a true staple of the racing genre.
Because of the time limits, Slowdrive requires you to play some levels multiple times, increasing the replay value but also keeping you interested by not making the levels too long. Every three levels you get something of a master track, which combines the previous three levels into one longer course, but even this presents itself to the player as an added challenge rather than a rehash of older material. On top of that, the aforementioned collectible leaves are not just difficult to find, but sometimes difficult to reach, which gives the player an additional challenging goal to achieve aside from the time limit.
Once you finish a race for the first time, Slowdrive invites you to race against your ghost as you work towards an even better time. This can give the game an illusion of competition, especially if you and your friends switch off playing on the same game. Slowdrive is singleplayer but does feature a leaderboard, so you can see how your time compares to other players’.
And if time isn’t enough of a challenge for you, never fear! Slowdrive also gives the player another customization option by alowing you to switch the camera view from third person to first person. Getting three stars in the first person camera mode will earn you a golden wheel and some serious bragging rights, as the first person camera presents you with a whole new set of obstacles to navigate. First person mode is a welcome addition to the game. By showing players a new perspective on the level, it increases the replay value of each course. First person perspective can also be useful if you find yourself stuck on a level because it forces you to think differently about how you are driving.
Aside from different perspectives, Slowdrive also does a good job of keeping its levels varied. New mechanics are introduced to the player as they advance, such as jump ramps and moving obstacles. Att the end of each chapter are three unique levels where you have to drive around a map collecting checkpoints within a certain time. The map is the same for these last levels, but the amount of checkpoints increases, and as a result each one presents a new challenge.
Overall one of the best things about this game is the fact that it takes a genre known for its fast-pace, sleek lines, and photo-realistic environments and turns that on its head. Slowdrive’s low poly style is charming and fitting of the game’s mechanics. The color palette includes a beautiful mix of neon and pastel that work together to create a world that borders on the surreal. This is all perfectly matched by its soundtrack, composed of upbeat but unobtrusive synth tones. Slowdrive’s music is simple, but so is the sense of driving along the beach at your own pace. Paired with the rest of the game, the soundtrack fits in beautifully.
The visuals and audio of Slowdrive are key to why the game is so enjoyable. Slowdrive occupies an interesting position between a time-trial racing game and a casual player experience. The atmosphere draws you in with comfort and pure, joy-filled fun that stays accessible with a low price tag and a fair difficulty. That’s the kind of game that anyone can appreciate, which is always a big win here at Gamer’s Almanac. Slowdrive may not have the high level of competition most racers expect, or the sheen of a racing AAA title like Nintendo’s mariokart, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Slowdrive is a unique experience offered up to the player. With the welcoming face of a sloth, it invites you to enjoy this colorful world and its winding roads, as often as you like, and at your own speed.