Developed By: Milkbag Games
Published By: Milkbag Games
Category: Racing, Sports, Arcade, Platformer
Release Date: 22.01.2019
Frantic, fast-paced and challenging
In what can often prove to be either a hindrance or a help, many of us can be described as creatures of habit. We know what we like and try wherever possible to seek this before venturing out into the relative unknown. Gaming is no different, with particular genres often being associated with times for relaxing. For me personally, gaming’s sole purpose is relaxation and coming home from a hard days graft to a sporting title or an RPG is exactly what I need. Loading up a frantic, fast-paced and challenging stunt racer is, ordinarily, not what I would be looking for and, being a creature of habit myself, something I had very little plans to ever consider. Through the sheer beauty of indie titles and with the help of my beloved Nintendo Switch, I found myself sat, night after night, engrossed in Milkbag Games
‘stylish stunt-racer all about tricks, skill, and speed.’
Categorised as a racing, sports platformer on the Nintendo eShop, FutureGrind is an extremely addictive gaming experience whereby you are in control of a bike. Said bike has two wheels, naturally, however you do not control the bike in a conventional manner. Predominantly driven in what can only be described as the ‘wheelie’ position, you navigate on, above, below, and between platforms, ensuring that the colour of your wheel only ever interacts with a platform of the same colour. For example, if your bike has a luminous pink wheel and bright blue one, you cannot ride your bike on a pink platform with the blue wheel.
A relatively simple concept, and one that has been done in similar forms before, however the level design, gameplay mechanics and outstanding musical score prove that Milkybag Games had grand ideas when developing this racing, platform title. It brings me immense joy to say that it all comes together to produce one of my favourite gaming experiences on the Nintendo Switch so far!
To provide context to a rather bold statement, I need to begin with the gameplay itself. FutureGrind is steeped with very intelligent game design, from the levels themselves to the objectives for each ‘run’ and the obstacles in your path. Each series of races start with you just ‘surviving’ the course – that is, make it from the start to the end in one piece. Once succesful, two further objectives appear which you must complete during your run. This could be to complete a 1080 backflip, only touch the yellow platforms/lines, touch every jump orb along the route etc. There are a whole host of objectives and each is just inventive as the last. It kept it fresh and engaging throughout my playthrough.
As well as the game design, the mechanics used are on point. The bike is responsive, the physics are accurate and the way that the bike interacts with the lines makes for a smooth gameplay experience. With a game so reliant upon the handling, they have ensured they have maximised its potential.
Equally as impressive as the level design is the accompanying backdrops. They are beautifully simplistic and carefully curated, providing a fantastic experience which is a sight to behold. Due to the speed and complexity of the platforming elements, I wasn’t able to appreciate the envirovnments fully until I tried out the assists feature (mentioned below), which slowed everything down and highlighted just how well designed the whole experience is.
No game is ever complete without a soundtrack, and this one is extremely well crafted to compliment the in-game action. Upbeat, inventive and interesting, I looked forward to listening to the beats almost as much as the gameplay itself. The composer, bignic (@tehbignic) deserves a round of applause for sharing his craft and ensuring that the musical content wasn’t included just to add some light entertainment to proceedings.
Accessibility through assists
Coming in at roughly ten hours of content, the game offers a variety of challenges in over twenty locations. Varying in difficulty, there are moments you can be stuck on for some time and occasions where you can make real headway towards 100% completion in a short period of time. There has been much talk of a difficulty spike at the 80% mark and as much as there was, I personally found that to be an excellent design choice. It meant that when I received the elusive 100% stamp, I felt I had earned it.
To support in ensuring that the game doesn’t ever become too challenging to the point people put the controller down, there are assists provided in the form of gameplay speed control and driving aids. The speed with which the level and your bike responds can be manipulated, with decreases of 25% intervals from 100% to 50% speed. Although I made sure not to use them for my own personal gain during my playthrough, I did test them for the purpose of review and they worked extremely well. It makes for a game which many can access, and I hope many do!
As well as changing the game speed, you can also make it so that any colour wheel can tough any surface. Invariably, this setting makes the game itself rather redundant, however it does mean that those struggling with a particular level or objective can effectively skip it and move on.
In using the word redundant, it prompted me to mention the storyline which is faintly weaved throughout the gameplay. Told in the form of on-screen text after each level is complete, it tells a tale that I rarely paid attention to as I was keen to continue grinding. The eShop description displays the following:
Keep your sponsors happy and you’ll find yourself earning new bikes and racing mind-bending tracks built for the pros. But not everything is as it seems. Someone is watching your every move. Who is it, and what do they really want with you?
A greater emphasis on this plot during the early stages of the game would have made for a more involved experience and one I would have liked to have seen integrated.
When I set out to write this review, I had only one clear goal in mind: ensure I have done everything to portray just how fantastically well-designed and well-executed FutureGrind is. As someone who rarely plays games of this nature, it speaks volumes when I recall that a) I managed to achieve 100% completion and it never felt like a chore, and 2) I did so with a solid four and a half hour stint on a Friday which resulted in me sleeping at 2:30am! The only negative thought I had of this game was that I wish it had been longer, and I sit awaiting the announcement of DLC or a sequel to give me something new to look forward to.
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