Distance: Going the Distance

The racing genre is often wracked with tired tropes games like Mario Kart have sought to change that  by  adding  fun  characters  and  different methods  of  sabotage. But in my humble  opinion, things like that take away from the racing  and become more about who can create the most hilarious scenario. Dodging, jumping, fast turns…these are all things we’ve  come  to  expect  with  traditional  racing  games, but I like to see a slight twist in my “make car go fast” collection. Distance, by Refract Studios, manages to do this while sticking to the basics enough  to  be  easy for most people to pick  up. The game is a spiritual successor to an earlier game created by a larger team (Nitronic  Rush),  so  if  you  see  the  trailer  and  notice  that  it  looks familiar, that would be why.

There are a few different settings in Distance insofar as game modes go. You can play Adventure mode, which is simply a playthrough of all of the different levels, with tutorials along the way. Arcade mode features solo, split-screen, and online modes. You can Sprint, which means to quickly go through a single level and be timed; Speed and Style will have a more stringent requirement for points; Challenge is, well, a challenge; Stunt is madness in the guise of a game (in other words, I was terrible at it). While Distance is still in Beta, it’s clear a lot of work has gone into it, and I actually did find myself trying to put it down to write this article, and saying to myself, “One more round. Just one more. Okay. One more.” I feel the lack of gimmicks that drivers can instigate is key to that replayability, but that may just be me.

The graphics are really pretty awesome, especially for a Beta build. The lines are crisp, the lights are spot-on, and there are some truly interesting effects you can get in certain circumstances that would be nothing without the visual oomph that comes with good graphic design. For example, there are sections in the game where you have to drive around lasers that are firing into the road, with just enough space between them to fit your vehicle. If you’re not adept enough you end up like me, with the top and/or sides of the car shaved off, still trying to drive while your car is basically a lump of metal with lava-orange edges where it’s been sliced apart. The fun part is that you can technically keep driving like that, but the lack of tires really does affect your steering capacity. Lights in the environment are sometimes distracting, but in a way that’s almost daring you to look at them they’re a challenging distraction. Obstacles are clearly marked, but that makes them no less of a challenge to circumvent, and that adds to the fun.

Speaking of steering the controls in Distance seem weird, to me. The arrow keys move (up = forward, etc.), Shift is used to boost, and Space is to jump. It’s a racing game that uses traditional controls, and that’s something of a rarity these days (Arcade games were all about this simplicity of direction back in the day). There’s no fancy mouse use for visuals (in fact, the mouse doesn’t currently work in the game, at all), and you’re kind of at the mercy of the game as to where the camera is focused. But unless you really mess up, directionally, it works fine. The arrows are a fiddly way of dodging the aforementioned lasers, as well as other dangers that come along, but it’s not an insurmountable problem. I imagine it would just take some practice. Oh, and did I mention that you can fly? And create your own levels? Because you can, and it’s everything you think it is and more.

I thoroughly enjoyed Distance, and again, for a Beta, it’s really coming along nicely. I did have to turn off the music and just listen to my own, as the techno-style became a little monotonous, but taking away the music didn’t remove from the experience. The other sounds were as expected, and are placed very well, both situationally and timing-wise. Overall, I’d recommend it to racing fans, both experienced and novice alike. I would imagine that whatever content they decide to add in the future will make the price more than fair so it will be fun to watch Distance improve!

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