Absolute Drift: Zen Edition is a challenging, simplistically designed driving game that focuses on the hard to master skill of drifting. As the game constantly prompts you, the goal is not about speed but control. Viewed from a top-down perspective, the structure of the game is fairly simple. You drift, beat specific objectives and attempt to get the best possible score. Then you do it all over again, making your way up the ladder and constantly trying to improve your score. In this respect, the game is pretty linear, and while the variety of missions is enough to keep you satisfied, the real challenge comes from mastering the titular skill – and it’s not as easy as most would prefer.
Absolute Drift: Zen Edition requires a lot more from its players than it would first appear. Those who consider it to be a “deceptively simple drifting game” must have previous experience, because for me, it requires a lot of focus, timing and reflexes in order to keep your car drifting in the right direction. It also requires a lot of patience as frustrations levels rise rather quickly as you continuously find yourself crashing into walls, losing your drift score and ultimately blaming the game for your failure. But it’s not a fault with the game. It simply requires a lot of practice to master which is where you’ll get the most out of Absolute Drift. It’s not something that can be mastered straight away. There are three levels of difficulty and each arena steadily ups the ante but once you get into the swing of things, it feels fantastic.
The aesthetic, though simplistic is striking. The otherwise colour palette works as a gorgeous artistic choice to contrast with the black tyre trails that outline where you’ve been, and the specks of other colour that signify objectives or obstacles. Especially as you move into the more complex tracks that the game has to offer, the graphical content can only then be truly appreciated, especially in the all-new “Midnight Events” which have you drifting around tracks in low light conditions with only your car’s headlights to mark the way. It’s a test of skill for the more experienced drifters and is something that I spectacularly failed at. For now, I’ll still to the Free Roaming section to practice.
Free Roam is essentially your Career Mode as you navigate your way through each world, completing challenges and missions dotted around the area. The free-roaming areas are stretched across five different locations, offering you more obstacles and inter-changing challenges that make you feel like a child on a petrol head playground. It’s a particularly good place to practice your drifting skills without the punishment of a low score result. It’s much more open spaced for you to get to grips with the control system and find the best way for you to play, because the tutorials do a pretty poor job of teaching. Snippets of advice or instruction are given to you (including a rather brutal loading screen message that accuses you of crashing too much) but ultimately it is up to you, the player, to understand how to play.
There are an available six drift cars to choose from, all unlocked as you progress through the stages and though you can customise their paint job, each car doesn’t feel all that different. They look different and sound different, but pretty much drive in the same way, but this will turn out to be a blessing. It’s difficult enough trying to master drifting to begin with. Throwing in different cars that are different to drive would only throw the player off even more.
However, there are a few things that feel like have been missed from an otherwise entertaining title. The aesthetic design and map layout lends itself towards having a ‘Level Creator’ feature, to allow players to construct their own tracks with their own personalised objectives and share them with friends online, which brings me to the second absence – multiplayer support. The closest Absolute Drift gets to an online community is the leaderboard where your scores are automatically uploaded but otherwise the world of Absolute Drift can feel like a very lonely place after a while. Features like this would have gone to great lengths to give the title more replay value, which at present is sorely lacking. Once completed, or mastered, there isn’t much to keep you going back for more and with only roughly three hours of content, for the asking price there will be a divide between whether you get your money’s worth.
All in all, Absolute Drift: Zen Edition walks the fine line between being unbearably frustrating and incredibly good fun to play. There is enough in the main game to keep you entertained but ultimately it is the reward of hard work and patience that feels truly satisfying when you have perfected the art of drifting. It’s a beautiful design, with smooth controls and excellent level designs that is simply missing a couple of features that would have made this an all-round great game. For lovers of the driving genre, if you are more for hot-headed racing and speed then Absolute Drift will come up as a challenge. For but those who are more of a fan of drifting and have the patience and persistence to work at their skills, then Absolute Drift should be one at the top of your list.
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