Out Run is a great game, nobody’s disputing that. But you can’t deny that it doesn’t let you flip through the air, grind on rails, or spin into oncoming cars to make them explode and send their crash test dummy occupants flying. That’s where Buck Up and Drive! comes in.
An arcade racing game from Fábio Fontes, Buck Up and Drive! takes the classic elements of the genre — racing to checkpoints, choosing paths, and dodging traffic — and piles on mechanics that make the experience that much more chaotic and compelling. You aren’t limited to avoiding other cars, you can boost through them using a Mario Kart-like drifting system. When you get air off a ramp, you can flip sideways to land on a roadside rail and grind it for points, or execute an explosive ground pound that destroys anything in your path. When the cops inevitably arrive to prevent you from reaching your destination, you’re encouraged to use a spin move to fight back.
It’s a lot to take in at first, and the game can feel a little jittery as you get used to the way your car seems to turn at sharp angles and remains aligned to the road when soaring off jumps, forcing you to fight the impulse to steer midair. But it all comes together after a few minutes practice — the game includes a helpful tutorial mode — and it just feels great, in addition to providing a range of scenery to experience.
Buck Up and Drive! is a video game kind of video game. It knows what it is, and it isn’t embarrassed about it. And why should it be? This is a game where you can engage in a one-on-one battle with another car by executing Street Fighter-esque special moves, all while racing down the endless highway. It’s a game where the roadside billboards reference Big Bill Hell’s. It’s a game, like last year’s excellent Cruis’n Blast, which invites you into a neon-soaked world where cars simply cannot be stopped by man nor god.
Did I mention you can customize your vehicles by editing image files? I tried to put a picture of Sonic the Hedgehog flanked by two Hooters girls on the hood of my car and a portrait of Danny DeVito on the roof. It didn’t really work and made my car look like it had a disease, but I’m sure that if you spent more than thirty seconds on it you could make something actually appealing.
If you like arcade racers, then give Buck Up and Drive! a shot. It scrapes the last vestiges of realism off the genre, revealing the pure, glittering chaos beneath. In other words, it’s a lot of fun. Also, I want to see the one-on-one fighter mode at the next EVO.