Although classic racing games have traditionally focused on speed and precision, the past few years have ushered in a new style of racing: drift. Inspired partly by street racing culture, but mostly by Hollywood movies, the world of drift racing has become the latest fixture in the automotive genre. Although most drift-based racers are grand affairs with plenty of cars, Drift Street International is a smaller title, exclusive to the DSiWare download service. But don’t judge this title only by its size…there are plenty of big ideas contained in this small package and plenty of big fun too.
When you first start up Drift Street International, the game throws you into a high-stakes evening race. There is no tutorial or introduction, and you’ll have to get the feel of the game rather quickly. Although this type of sink-or-swim approach may be off-putting to some, I appreciated the game’s blunt approach. Chances are good that if you are picking up Drift Street International, you are familiar with automotive titles already and probably have some experience with a drifting mechanic. Getting rid of the initial tutorial mode is a great way to get experienced players right into the game.
However, even though you may have extensive experience with the racing genre, Drift Street International does have its own unique style and mechanics. The racing controls can best be described as arcade-style, with quick acceleration times and fast maneuvers. Although driving is not the smoothest experience with the DS’ control pad, after some practice, you’ll be able to hug the curves like a pro.
The initial racing mechanic is easy to get a hold on, but the drifting mechanic will take a bit more work. The overall drifting mechanic is a little herky-jerky, and the turns are a little too quick. Although drifting, by its very nature, puts your car out of control, the trick with a good drifting game is to control the way the car moves during the drift so that you slowly regain control of the car. After the apex of the curve, expert drifters will regain full control of the car again and be able to maintain the speed they achieved during the drift. However, in Drift Street International, the car switches between drifting and full control immediately. When you initiate a drift by tapping the brake button, your car immediately slides into drift mode. Then, about five seconds later, you regain control of your car immediately when it straightens out. There is no “in-between” phase, and the game doesn’t give you a chance to ease back into full control mode. As a result, you have to be very careful with your drifting, as cutting a corner too close can lead to disaster.
Despite the precision issues with the drifting, Drift Street International does manage to have fairly good controls overall, and after some considerable time with the first stage, most players will be able to get a “feel” for the game. Once you pass the first level, the rest of the game will open up and you will be able to continue through the game’s career mode and participate in special checkpoint and speed test races.
The checkpoint race is a fairly typical mode that involves racing around a course and reaching certain checkpoints scattered around the track before time runs out. The other special race mode, speed trial, is also very standard and simply places a time limit on the race. Although these modes don’t exactly cover new ground for the racing genre, they do add some nice variation to the gameplay, and they are a nice addition to an $8 game.
The garage in Drift Street International is a little on the bland side. There are only a handful of cars, and each needs to be unlocked as you progress through the game. None of the cars are known brands, but each one sports improved statistics that include increased acceleration, speed, and drift endurance. You can customize the color scheme of your car, but beyond that there are no mechanical tweaks that you can perform. The car selection and options are fairly slim, but again, this is an $8 game we are talking about. I really would have liked to have seen more cars and options in the game, but as a DSiWare title, the current vehicle lineup is serviceable.
In addition to the single-player modes, Drift Street International also supports multi-card racing with up to four people. Although this is a nice addition if you know a lot of people with this game, I really wish they would have incorporated a single-card mode so you could play with those who don’t already have the game. Drift Street International is not exactly a high-profile release, and finding someone who already has this game could prove difficult if you really want to check out the multiplayer. Still, if you can find others with the game (or can easily convince someone to purchase it), the multiplayer mode is a great way to race with your friends and experience a traditional-feeling race experience.
Drift Street International is not likely to win any awards for innovation or impressive gameplay. Almost everything about this game feels very average. However, for a DSiWare title, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you really feel like you want to do some racing, and you’ve got 800 DSiWare points burning a hole in your virtual pocket, Drift Street International is a perfectly good title. As long as you don’t expect Need for Speed or Gran Turismo, you won’t be disappointed.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
Animations are smooth and cars look great, but tacks are a little bland. 3.8 Control
The arcade-style controls are very straightforward and simple. Drifting could have been better. 2.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music is repetitive and sound effects can be grating. 3.9
Although the game’s garage isn’t very robust, the three modes plus the multiplayer makes this game a great value at 800 points.
3.6 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.