Drift racing is a version of motor racing which more heavily involves the use of the technique of “drifting” to cause a loss of traction in wheels while maintaining control as the driver veers through corners. This technique is extremely commonplace in all sorts of racing games, from OutRun to Super Mario Kart to Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing, and many, many more. In these titles, it is nearly essential to making the best times and to victory itself, often offering such rewards as boosts to help the racer get ahead.
And yet, while it is so often a prominent feature in many a racing title, it is rarely the main focus. That’s where Drift Mania: Street Outlaws sets itself apart from other racing games.
Though Drift Mania still counts as a racing game, your goal is not to reach the finish line first. Rather, your objective is to accumulate as many points as you can by mastering the fine art of drifting. This involves finding designated drifting zones (marked in a luminescent blue) and ideally hitting them at the highest speed possible while cranking your brake and steering through the turn. Of course, the one thing you must be mindful of is making sure that you don’t slide outside of the drifting zone, or hit a wall, or else that sweet four-digit score you were earning goes up in a puff of smoke. In truth, sometimes it feels like these restrictions are a little too harsh, as you try to stop a drift and salvage your points but still get thrown off anyway.
There are two main ways to control your steering: A digital steering wheel, and the Android’s gyroscope. Surprisingly, the latter seems to be the preferable choice. Not only does it respond quite well for motion controls, but it also features options to adjust its sensitivity. The digital wheel, on the other hand, feels like some sort of hot mess. The wheel itself is fine, but it takes the place of where the hand brake is in the motion control scheme. With motion controls, your thumbs only need to worry about the brake on the left and the accelerator on the right, but the steering wheel throws things all out of whack, and feels like it requires a third hand to use as the brake is now placed alongside the accelerator.
In addition to racing solo in a career mode, you can also compete in a single-player tournament against the computer to see who can rack up the highest score. Online multiplayer is also included, but as of this writing, we were unable to find anyone to connect with to try it out.
As with most games of this type, you can take on its 13 courses with any of a number of different vehicles… once you’ve earned enough money and accomplished enough missions to buy them, that is. In addition, you can trick them out with new parts and details, allowing you to improve its handling or add a stylish new spoiler to the back. To that end, the graphics themselves are pretty good. Not eye-popping, but they do the job well, featuring lights, reflections, and even a little bit of damage to your vehicle. The models aren’t exactly top-end, as you can still see some of the polygonal corners without much trouble, but they still look good in motion, especially against some rather nice backgrounds.
The soundtrack is kind of hit and miss, but that really comes down to the style of music you enjoy. If Templeton Pek, Curbside, Balliztic, and Avery Watts are your cup of tea, then you’re in good hands. Unfortunately, while the iOS version allows you to instead choose your own music to drift to, we couldn’t find any such option in the menus of the Android version.
Crossing the Finish Line
Overall, Drift Mania: Street Outlaws isn’t a bad game, and is fairly decent in most regards. It does something different, and does it pretty well, but perfecting your drift for a higher score instead of an added boost to finish in first may not be to everyone’s appeal. In our case, while it was fun for a while, it just didn’t sink its hooks into us the same way as a good ol’ race to the finish.