Distance: Seeing the track in neon red
This is going to be the final review for the year; we have a pretty cool game to end on. I am not a fan of racing games because I am bad at them. They also typically do not have any sort of story and get tedious pretty fast as there is only so much one can do with a car and a race track in a video game.
So, you dear reader might be wondering why I am even looking at Distance if anything I have told holds any water. Just because I’m not a fan doesn’t mean I shouldn’t step out of my comfort zone now and again eh? And unlike many bland but perfectly functional racing franchises like Need for Speed and F1 Racing. Distance is a sci-fi racer that has something of a plot and at times an extremely challenging platformer. Let us (and by us I mean me) end this year with some good driving.
In the distant future (lol pun) humanity colonized, the stars using The Distance program. A teleportation device that allows for faster than light travel, but as to be expected, something bad happens. You are just a car exploring the remains of this star civilization, looking (and by looking I mean participate in several races) for the thing that caused the end of this civilization.
The story is pretty light and regulated to context, flashbacks, and exposition scraps told over the intercom. Refact does an awesome job at building atmosphere and the occasional scare whenever the player approaches the alien. You feel the weight of catastrophe whenever traverse the more dilapidated parts of the city. The suggestion of alien wrath told in the shattered roads and bright unsettling neon oranges and reds are palpable. Distance keeps just enough context and story to motivate the player to keep going during the difficult platforming sections.
Please keep in mind I have only have played the campaign. There is no one online so there is not much to talk about there. I will be talking about the gameplay and design of the campaign tracks. Now that we have cleared that up, let us talk about games.
Jump, run, and fun
Twitch reflexes and pattern recognition are key to navigating Distance. Unlike most racing games where you are restricted to speed control, Distance allows you to jump, fly, and manipulate gravity. As a result, Distance is a hell of a lot more interesting from a gameplay and design standpoint in comparison to most racing games. Within seconds the track might demand you to completely change perspectives, shift gravity to the side, or demanding you to fly for extended periods, jumping up in a certain rhythm to not get smashed. Giving the player to fly and manipulative to increases the challenge. Sometimes you have to change gravity rapidly to keep up with the changing tracks.
The jump command has to be done within a certain place, at a certain time, or risk getting smashed. Let's not forget that you have to manage your boost because if you use it too much, the car is going to explode. There is a chaotic elegance to the madness. A challenge and sense of fun that I normally don't associate with racing games. A skill level that is often absent from the genre.
The car handles better than almost any car I have played in a video game. The sheering is sharp and highly responsive, which for someone like me is a godsend because I am terrible at driving in real life I mean games. It also removes a lot of the finickiness and hypersensitivity that comes with video game cars. That sort of sensitivity that sees me smash into walls, pedestrians, and sometimes off the map. Without this annoying sensitivity, I can play the game and have fun while doing so. This might mean that gamers who are better at this sort of genre might find the game a little on the easy side. But at least for me, I found it a refreshingly enjoyable experience.
The pattern of the track
Distance is a deceptively difficult game. At the start, you drive through some very beautiful vistas to some rocking techno-pop and end with high stakes, stressful, rapidly changing perspectives and rhythm. I won’t in saying that it can be a little infuriating trying to figure out how to somehow fly through a meat grinder without touching anything and maintaining the speed required to keep flying. I honestly don’t know how I somehow got past that part but it seemed less on skill but rather a luck. The difficulty can be a little jarring at times (at least for me) as I could sail through many a level before suddenly being stuck on a particular part of the track for 20 minutes-at most figuring out how to proceed. Despite the jumps, however, I was still having fun and felt that sense of accomplishment when I finally solved it.
Distance both a puzzle game and racer in this regard, where the track is a puzzle in need of solving. One might object to the racing classification, as the campaign has no AI opponents. What are you racing against if there is nothing to race with? That is a good point but I would argue that (asides from the multiplayer) the campaign is training you for the multiplayer, forcing you to learn the various maneuvers with a puzzle-like mentality. It is teaching you the mechanics so that you can race against other people which wouldn't be as effective if the player had AI challengers. They would be too busy concentrating on winning as opposed to learning and memorizing.
Art style and Graphics:
Distance looks beautiful, the variety of colors and neon lighting combined into something wonderful and timeless. You drive through what appears to be a once marvelous civilization now decaying. The harsh neon red of the alien is terrifying in the way harsh reds indicate. The vast open space is both beautiful and hauntingly isolating. Driving home (lol) the idea that we are the last remnants of humanity, exploring what should have been a utopia but somehow degraded into silence and death.
I am disappointed that I was not able to find any multiplayer matches. Because I wanted to give it a shot. Despite this, however, Distance is still a great game, I love the visuals, the atmosphere, the challenge even though it is a racing game. Someday I hope to check out Nitronic Rush, I hope it is as cool as Distance. Well, that is the end of the year, what a terrible year for the world and South Africa at large. Let us see if 2021 will be any better. Alternatively, the Whore of Babylon will rise from the sea atop a terrifying beast. Either way, I wish you a Happy New Year and a personal thank you for staying with me. The final article will be about the best and the worst I have experienced; it is going to be fun!
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