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Well, Hello ladies…

Forever Drive was one of the first games I downloaded, and is another great example of FTP gaming that works. I’ve been waiting to write a review for Forever Drive because it had some pretty major bugs, and I was hoping that Supermono would release an update to fix them. A couple of weeks ago the update finally came out, and so it’s time I write out my thoughts.

Forever Drive is pretty much a does-what-it-says-on-the-tin type of game. You drive and drive and drive until you’re so bored of driving you steer straight off a cliff to your death, much like my Uncle Murray did in the late 90s.

Do you know what it's like going to the supermarket late at night to get some more beers and you're trying not to let on that you're driving pissed?

How Does It Drive?

In Forever Drive you race only against time – which is perhaps partly to credit for my long lasting enjoyment of the game. Quite frankly, I find racing games a bit boring; I don’t really care about beating anyone else (except my wife, I beat her all the time!) Although your only real opponent is the clock, there are plenty of diversions on each track to keep the tension up. There are points to collect, pick-ups, and other cars travelling along at their own pace which you must dodge.

Each time you pass a car you start a combo chain and you only lose your combos if you hit a car or the sides of the track. The higher your combo, the faster you travel. (Although I’ve noticed this function has gotten a little buggy in the recent update. Sometimes I start going very fast after getting a combo of only 8, other times it takes closer to 20 for the same speed.) It can be truly painful when you’ve got a good speed going then suddenly you hit a car (the likelihood of which steadily increases the faster you go, obviously) and now find yourself moving at a snail’s pace. Along the sides of the track, usually on turns, there are glowing strips that give you points while you drive on them, but of course the danger with these strips is their proximity to the edge of the track, which you’re trying to avoid. Occasionally there will also be a line of little stars on the track, in sets of 10. Each is worth 10 points but that is doubled if you manage to get them all.

There are three pick-ups: Time Extension, 500 Points, and Speed Increase. By far the most useful and most common is the Time Extension. The Speed Increase is a power-up that I find can be just as harmful as good. They don’t always appear in the best of spots and if you hit one going into a bend you’re just as likely to shoot straight into the wall, slowing yourself down, losing any combo you may have built up, and will probably be worse off that if you had just skipped it. On the other hand you receive points at the end of each track for the number of power-ups you picked up, so you have to weigh the pros and cons.

All the points earned during a track run are tabulated after you cross the finish line. When you run out of time, your overall run is ended and all the points you’ve earned during all your track runs is calculated and your level meter fills up. By leveling up you earn newer and better cars, new paint styles and license plates for your car, and buildings to use as props when you build your own track. One of the things I really loved was the tongue-in-cheek descriptions of all these items. Its always nice when a developer doesn’t take themselves too seriously. In fact on the help section of the Supermono website, which can be accessed via the help tab in game) the 8th point on the list is that players should remember to put the game down and go have fun outside.

You can listen to the Drive soundtrack on your headphones while playing this. Then you can pretend you're cool.

One of Supermono’s most clever tricks with Forever Drive was the method they developed to keep new, fresh tracks consistently added. By having tacks created and vetted by the players themselves, it prevents the game from becoming tiresome and dull. There are some downsides to this method though. For one, occaissionally you’ll play a track that you really love, but the odds of getting to play it again are a bit slim. With new tracks constantly being added, you rarely see the same track more than 3 or 4 times. The other, bigger downside is that while everyone thinks they can design games- much like almost everyone seems to think they can sing, act, or write. These misguided creators often mistake impossible or stupid with challenging and thus you find yourself playing many tracks that are damn annoying. For example, tracks with a sharp turn right at the start. This is particularly bad design because while it works great when you test the track or if you get the track earlier in your run, if you have built up a combo and are therefore going at quite a clip, you will very likely crash straight into the walls with a turn right at the beginning due to the angle of the camera. And though the publisher has worked to fix the glaring problem of people sticking buildings on top of the track and obscuring your view, the items can still overlap the track a little bit and can still lead to you crashing into a car that was impossible to see. And of course there’s just as likely chance that these user designs are teh result of trolling, intentionally made bad to ruin your experience.

I imagine it would be hard to make a good track if you have big fat sausage fingers.

There is a system to work around this problem – at the end of each track you can give a track a thumbs up or a thumbs down, and if you give it a thumbs down you’ll never see it again. If it earns enough negative votes, a track will be removed from the game. Also there is a 3 track limit to building levels (unless you buy extra slots). Some have complained about this or suggested that it is counter-intuitive to Supermono’s user-based level addition, however I think its actually an intelligent move. It prevents trolls and inept designers from filling the game with terrible levels that ruin the experience. However I do think they could have instituted some sort of system whereby users who create levels that consistently get up votes earn an extra slot or two, therefore encouraging the best level designers to create more.

Supermono deserves big kudos for listening to reviewers and fixing problems with the game. In the previous version (I am currently playing V 1.22) there were some serious problems that really affected the game, so much so that I decided to not even bother playing it until they released an update. In the earlier version you would quite often find yourself on a track with a turn so tight the track wouldn’t line up properly. You would immediately get stuck and would then have to wait for the game to crash. And there were far too many levels with obstructed views. I (and I assume many others) wrote to the publishers suggesting some changes. Personally I suggested making users play their own tracks before they could be added to the pool and a serious look at the bug causing the game to crash at these times. I don’t know if they fixed that bug, but you now have to play the track before it can be submitted. I saw many other reviews complain about the obstruction issue, which I didn’t bring up, but which the publisher obviously paid attention to, as you can no longer place items too far onto the track.

Custom Paint Jobs

One cannot discuss this game without mentioning the artwork. The style of this game is absolutely gorgeous. Tron is the obvious comparison – glowing neon colours on dark backgrounds, some of the levels have a circuitry themed landscape. Combined with the props placed on the tracks (buildings, signs, dirigibles) and the way the track can rise and fall, I often find myself paying more attention to the scenery passing by than the track or the cars I’m meant to be avoiding.

I wonder if this was intentional, because it allowed the designers to make use of more block-y graphics. The cars themselves are quite square and basic in terms of style and this may have been to try and limit the amount of space the graphics took up. Or maybe when they decided that they were going to have Tron-like glowing tracks, their next step was to reinforce that reference with some 80s looks. Whatever the case, it works brilliantly.

Buying a Nice Set of Rims

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, Forever Drive is a freemium product. Users can buy credits, which can be used to play the Super XP mode of the game, which multiplies your end of run score by 3. In the latest update, Supermono added a Challenge game mode, however I have yet been able to use this mode as its always “Loading New Challenges” and is never ready to play.
I think Supermono have struck a good balance on their revenue model. It’s perhaps a little to generous to the customer. I could see only the most hardcore caring about getting to the top levels and therefore I wonder how much the company earns from credit buys. Unlike Tiny Tower, which I looked at previously, Forever Drive doesn’t have an addictive nature that continuously pulls you back. It is undoubtedly addictive while you’re actually playing the game, but once you put it down, you can wait to pick it back up and it works more as a great way to entertain yourself during spare moments.

You see that? "Amazing" That's the same thing your mum said about me when she reviewed how well I boned her.

Finish Line

Supermono’s Forever Drive is a brilliant game to play and a great place to look for game design, especially for small developers. Their method of getting user input to maintain and keep the game fresh is a brilliant move for a small team that can’t afford to constantly do updates to keep customers happy, but the company still listens to feedback and works on fixing big issues, rather than letting the game fend for itself.

Its a great freemium game, although unfortunately I can’t say anything about the latest feature, Challenge Mode, which purportedly requires a spend of credits to play but despite the fact I do have some credits floating around, this mode never loads for me, so I couldn’t really tell you what it requires or how it plays. I also question how effective their payment scheme is, as I find the game lacks the addictiveness of some other successful FTP games, but that may simply be my feelings alone. Supermono might be rolling in it for all I know.