Game Review #116: FutureGrind (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Allan Jenks
Developer: Milkbag Games
Publisher: Milkbag Games
Category: Racing, Sports, Platformer, Arcade, Freestyle
Release Date: 1.22.2019
Price (at time of review): $19.99
Buy FutureGrind from the Nintendo eShop here.
Reinventing the Grind
Back in the late 90s, when the N64 and the PS1 were in full-swing, a new game came out that had myself and all of my friends completely addicted to freestyle stunt riding and competition. That game was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Sure, there had been other skateboarding games before that. Skate or Die!, for instance, was an awesome little skateboarding game for the NES, one that had some aspects of freestyle to it like the half-pipe and the freestyle trick course, but until Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, it just wasn’t the same animal. Suddenly, you could string together a series of random tricks and grinds, building up a score multiplier and pulling off some ridiculous high scores and combos. FutureGrind, while an animal all to itself, brings back those nostalgia feels in a brand new way. Instead of a skateboard, you ride a motorized bike, and you grind your way across the rails of the different courses, being careful not to crash and burn.
Controls With Death In Mind
Nothing too complex with the controls. You control the spin of your bike with the left toggle and your jumps with A and B. You can also double-jump while airborne, which can either save you or destroy you, depending on your timing and knowledge of the track.
You can also restart the stage instantly by pressing X. This is a very useful feature, as you can skip the whole reload screen telling you that you crashed and that you suck, and instead just start from the beginning with zero load time. You will use this a lot, because you will crash a lot...ridiculous amounts of crashing here. It is also very handy for when you are trying to get to a certain multiplier and hit a white rail, resetting it—I’ll touch more on that in a bit. Sure, you could keep playing and finish the course, but you already blew it at that point…may as well start over.
So, the basic gameplay concept here is simple: grind the rails and don’t die, but try to be fancy with it. Basically, you have different bikes that unlock as you progress through the different tracks in your career mode. Each bike has some different features to it, mainly related to the color of the different wheels and the center of gravity between the wheels. The color is important, because you can only touch the wheel to a rail of the same color. If you touch your blue wheel to the pink rail, you explode, and you die. The center of gravity determines the physics of your spins and flips, which of course can determine how much oomph you need to put into the spin in order to land with the right color wheel on the right color rail.
It’s highly trial-and-error, but once you figure out a good string of flips and well-timed jumps and double-jumps that work for the track, it then becomes more of a contest to top yourself and beat your own high score. You can increase your score exponentially by adding to your multiplier. This can be done by landing jumps, doing flips, and transferring grinds between different rails, but if you land on a white rail, your multiplier resets to 1, so you have to be very deliberate and precise with your runs. It becomes very addicting after a while though, as you tweak a jump here, add an extra rotation to a flip there, just trying to maximize your score by the end of the course.
The visuals of FutureGrind are beautiful and tastefully-crafted. The bright neon colors are mesmerizing and keep your attention throughout. As you grind the rails, the sparks fly in the corresponding colors of the wheels and rails, and if you mismatch the colors, the resulting explosion, while usually frustrating, is still quite pleasant to observe.
The music is also very well-written and fits the mood quite nicely. The soundtrack is mostly industrial-techno EDM, which adds to the cyber-punk feel of it all. The music continues to play through all restarts, so it is not constantly starting over each time. That would have seriously annoyed the crap out of me, considering how often I had to restart the stage after a crash or a misstep.
When I first saw FutureGrind, I was not expecting it to be as fun and addictive as it turned out to be. I figured it would just end up being some gimmicky racing game. Overall though, it turned out quite differently. Sure, it’s a bit of a gimmick, but it’s a good gimmick. The concept is simple enough, but well-executed, and the controls are spot on. If you crash, it’s because you didn’t have the reflexes required, not because the controls didn’t respond. You can spend a quick 20 minutes just playing around with the tracks and different bikes if you are pressed for time, or you can sit down for a few hours of painstaking course mastery. If you are a fan of freestyle extreme sports or racing games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, 1080° Snowboarding, or Grip: Combat Racing, then I would recommend this game to you.
Buy FutureGrind from the Nintendo eShop here.
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*Review Code Provided by Terminals