Tony Hawk’s Pro Commuter
There’s this level of indie game, just beneath the teams that can afford PR. The realm of the solo devs who pluck away at a labor of love. They probably would like to make a living off their work, but that comes secondary. It’s where we got games like Citizen Abel: Gravity Bone and Cave Story, among other notable titles.
It can be hit or miss. The developers obviously want their product to be good, but sometimes experiments don’t turn out. Occasionally, you can taste their frustration, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Buck Up and Drive isn’t a failed experiment, however. It’s a wonderfully absurd little racing game that will have you wishing for more.
Buck Up and Drive (PC)
Developer: Fábio Fontes
Publisher: Fábio Fontes
Released: August 21, 2021
It’s interesting to see a resurgence in raster racers in the same sense that it is to watch ray-casted 2.5D shooters make a comeback. The technology has been made obsolete, but games like OutRun and Top Gear have burrowed so far into the fabric of gaming, that they can’t just be left alone. We have to get them up on the autopsy table and see where they might have gone if they hadn’t been superseded by 3D polygons.
Buck Up and Drive is an inelegant answer to that question. If this is an autopsy, it’s being done with a table saw and a blow torch. The question is less how far the genre could have gone and more how ridiculous it could have gotten.
Like OutRun, the main idea is to get as far as you can down a series of branching paths. Unlike OutRun, you never run out of roads. Also unlike OutRun, you gain points by doing sick stunts, shunting cars out of your way, and harassing the police. It’s like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater got merged with Burnout: Revenge in some sort of horrific time-travel experiment.
The goal in Buck Up and Drive is simple: make it to the checkpoint before the time runs out. That’s not enough, though. You have to rack up points to get to the more exotic environments and unlock new cars. That means hitting ramps, grinding guardrails, and picking fights with the cops.
It still isn’t that easy, though! You can only take out other cars by boosting into them, and you build boost by drifting. But drifting isn’t just a stylish way to take corners, it’s actually more useful on straight stretches, for some reason. You should just always be drifting if you want to rack up those points. Don’t worry, you can still hit ramps while you’re drifting. Just drift, damn it!
Stunts are as easy as hitting a ramp and jamming down on the directional pad. Except, screw that. After practicing safe stunting for a while, I just started slapping the control pad like it insulted my T-shirt. There’s no risk of not landing on your wheels, and if you’re lucky, you’ll bounce up and be able to pull off even more stunts. The downside is that your car looks like it’s caught in a rock tumbler, but that’s radical all the same, right?
The unfortunate part is that there’s not a whole lot of content. One car is unlocked from the beginning, but having them all unlocked only amounts to five. Actually building the skills to reach the later environments takes time, but you could still polish Buck Up and Drive off in an afternoon. It’s $8, which was about as much as a weekend rental in my day, so you’ll have to decide if this is enough content.
There’s also only one music track for endless mode. Honestly, it’s actually pretty decent, fits the gameplay well, and I never got bored of it. But there’s still only one. Just a warning.
There’s also a 1v1 fighting mode that the developer says he came up with while he was in the shower. It’s another interesting twist on the genre that still probably won’t last you long. At least there’s multiplayer, and if you don’t have friends, you can play against a bot. It’s a nice inclusion, any way you slice it.
That’s generally what you get. I’m not typically a fan of chasing high scores, but the fact that some of the game was locked behind various thresholds kept me going, at least for a while. It was a fun game to learn and was a bit of time well spent.
The developer has said they will likely add additional cars and environments to Buck Up and Drive post-release, but Gamemaker’s switch to a subscription model has soured their desire to add things like extra modes. I respect that, I’m just letting you know that what you see might be all you get.
Which is fine. Buck Up and Drive is just a silly little game and doesn’t pretend to be more than that. There’s a dearth of bells or whistles, but the core gameplay is ridiculous and easygoing enough that it’s probably impossible to not be entertained. It’s a fun diversion, for as long as it lasts, but your mileage might vary. For me, I think it’s time for another radical cruise.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the author.]