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Driift Mania - WiiWare Review

Game Info
Driift Mania

WiiWare | Konami | 1-8 Players (local multiplayer/co-operative play) | Out Now | 800 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote and Nunchuk; Wii Remote (sideways); Classic Controller
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10th February 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

Konami's early beginnings with WiiWare weren't exactly the most memorable. The publisher first started out by releasing Critter Round-Up (an overpriced puzzle game) followed by Sandy Beach (a simplistic sand-castle building game). Not exactly the greatest of starts especially when you look at the company's strong track record. That being said, it's without a doubt that Konami is quickly becoming one of WiiWare's stronger developers. Recently, Konami has been focusing on the release of retro-focused titles (such as Frogger Return and Contra Rebirth) that completely trump the quality of their premiere WiiWare releases. In a totally different direction, Konami is at it again with their latest WiiWare game, Driift Mania - a racing game that's sure to be a hit at your next multiplayer session!

Driift Mania plays out like a top-down racer and in case you've never encountered these types of games before, the camera angles are viewed from above, allowing you to see the entire stage in action. Each stage has a series of winding pathways but you must generally follow along a main path, going through a series of flagged checkpoints along the way to the finish line. The game has over 10 different stages set across four main environments - City, Hills, Oasis and Snow. In addition, the game features a rather impressive selection of cars with various levels of traction, drifting abilities and acceleration. Since the statistics of each car are not shown on-screen, there is a sense of mysteriousness and experimentation as players test out each car, trying to find their car of choice. Not all of the cars and stages are available from the get-go, though, so through playing either the single-player or multiplayer component, players can unlock battle arenas, special cars and more. 

    Driift Mania definitely has a strong arcade feel going for it and players will be able to observe this right away. The graphics have a quirky look to them and it suits the gameplay really well. Menu screens are shown in a manner that's both eye-pleasing and easy to follow for anyone. In terms of audio, the in-game music is pretty good: the first track in the game has a bit of a strange funky feel to it but other songs such as the theme for the Oasis stage and even the Main Menu theme are great. Instead of deciding to just slap something together, the developers put a lot of work into making everything about the game work, even right down to the overall look of the game.

    The game features a modest amount of content for the single-player component. Players are tasked with aiming for gold trophies as they traverse through a series of championship cups, unlocking vehicles and game modes along the way. The thing is, a first-timer can't just jump into the game expecting to breeze through it and get a handle on the controls right away. It takes time for someone new to get acquainted with the controls; to that end, you're bound to make mistakes, crashing into walls and other racers as you try to make sense of how to control your vehicle. For some, it can take as long as 10-20 minutes to get the hang of the controls but once you do, the game is really enjoyable even when playing against the computers. Some of the multiplayer modes can even be played by yourself with computer opponents but unfortunately this option isn't available for all of them which is a bit of a shame.

When playing with friends, the multiplayer aspect shines brilliantly, and it's what really makes Driift Mania such a great purchase. There's a large level of appeal for different audiences and skill levels. Even the most skilled players don't always have a glaring advantage in some of the multiplayer modes, and this creates a sense of balance. As touched on earlier, Driift Mania doesn't have a strong pick-up-and-play appeal when compared with other titles. Players will make quite a few mistakes before they get the hang of the controls and even then, we can guarantee you'll be crashing into walls from time to time. But having to figure out the controls is very satisfying on a personal level. Plus, all the crashes and traffic jams only add to the social experience with all the laughs that are sure to result. 

    As for the modes themselves, Konami has done a great job at creating some heated competition amongst friends. Custom Race is the standard mode of play, allowing you to choose a series of stages to form your own championship cup with or without computers. Team Race plays out like it sounds: two teams work together to get the best overall score over the opposing team. Meteorite mode is a gripping race to the finish where players must navigate through courses whilst meteors gradually fall from the sky and onto unsuspecting racers. In Contamination, players must first go around the course at least once and the last player who doesn't reach the finish line will become infected with poison. Then, in a no-holds barred battle, the infected player roams around the entire track trying to infect other racers before time runs out. Potato mode has players battling to get hold of a potato randomly-placed on the track and then try to keep it for as long as possible until the timer depletes. Finally, in VIP mode, each team selects one player to be the team "flag" as it were and the other players must do what they can to prevent the other team's car from winning. How you go about doing that, is up to you but you can't say it's not fun to have teams try to work together, creating roadblocks to stop the other team. These multiplayer modes (especially Meteorite and Contamination) are really, really fun with friends and it's for that reason that Driift Mania can rightly be classified as one of the better social experiences on the Wii.

Driift Mania also features 8-player support for multiplayer bouts, something not many Wii games can boast. It can be a bit hard to see all the action on smaller TV's but the game's imposed colour system helps a lot (e.g., Player 1 will always have a blue car). On-screen text such as the lap numbers and race positions for each player are only displayed once you cross a lap or when a rival is passed, respectively. It was a great decision for Konami to keep additional on-screen elements to a minimal; the only times these become a little too distracting is when a series of cars cross the line in quick succession.

The secondary pathways and shortcuts on all of the tracks see greater usage in the game's multiplayer modes where you're granted more freedom. For example, in Contamination and Potato mode, players are able to roam around the entire track trying to avoid or chase one or more players. This definitely creates some surprises as players use shortcuts to one-up their opponents. In addition, the game instills a sense of teamwork, even amongst players who are aiming to come out on top; players in the same room may even form temporary alliances with one another in hopes of cornering someone on the run. This type of social interaction isn't something that can be experienced in an online match and it's for good reason that Konami decided to focus on a strong, local experience.

    All in all, there's very little to find fault with Driift Mania. Admittedly, some aspects could've been a bit better such as the fact that the game contains no leaderboards to speak of. That being said, the minor niggles of the game are really overpowered by the compelling multiplayer modes. For anyone longing for a really fun racing game to play with friends and family, Driift Mania comes highly recommended. Let go of any inhabitions you might have about the game's presentation styles and spend the 800 points - the laughs and the enjoyment that are to be had from this WiiWare title make the price tag well worth it.

26/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 8/10 - Controls take a bit of time, strong multiplayer focus, top-down racing goodness done right, good sense of variety
Presentation 8/10 - Looks great overall, music is pretty good, arcade feel, can be harder to see on smaller TV sets
Enjoyment 5/5 - Dock a point if you'll only play by yourself, playing with friends is a blast no matter how many people you play with
Extra Content 5/5 - Good number of vehicles and stages, unlockable modes and more, fun multiplayer, great value, no leaderboards

Equivalent to a score of 87% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Driift Mania
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Review by KnucklesSonic8

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