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Ocean Drive Challenge (Xbox 360) artwork

Ocean Drive Challenge (Xbox 360) review

"Aesthetics and the Beast"

One of the most unmistakable tributes I've seen of OutRun, Ocean Drive Challenge takes a stab at recreating the spirit of the 1986 classic, and succeeds on a lot of levels. After picking one of three Ferrari-inspired vehicles, a timed race across seven scenic routes commences, where trees on end cover the road's corners, fields of grass are questionably striped, and you're zipping past traffic on freeways where the speed limit is apparently 240kph. However, the most impressive thing is the insistence with mimicking the look of Sega's super scaler tech, which is, in brief, the act of enlarging a constant stream of sprites to give the illusion of 3D movement. ODC brings back that sensation with eerie accuracy: mountains, wheat fields, buildings, and tunnels "snake" towards your car in "chopped-up" fashion.

Dash out of the starting line, speed down the road as you're listening to a tune of your choosing, and then... feel the weird stiffness when making that very first turn. A far cry from OutRun's looser navigation, shifting left and right in ODC first feels like trying to drive out of quicksand, which is disconcerting when attempting to dodge traffic during sharp turns on small roads. Better believe you're going to hit cars and gas tankers endlessly on your first go, because the handling was such a hassle on my first try, that I failed to make it out of the second stage. And I had 70 seconds to work with!

But the most damaging thing done to ODC occurs whenever your car crashes off the road under any circumstance. In OutRun, even with loss of speed, getting back on the road doesn't pose much of an issue, which makes it infuriating that it takes anywhere from three to six seconds to move back on the asphalt here. This makes it all the more problematic due to side obstacles, rocks or trees, that can easily force your car to a complete stop if you're in a bad spot. Unfortunately, this often intensifies other aspects that were either minor or nonexistent flaws, such as traffic jams usually forcing you on the outskirts, blind turns that can terrify, and when you're finally back on the road, there's always a 50/50 chance a speeding car will knock you back off.

While ODC pays respects as a spiritual successor, its skewed method of car handling changes the dynamic of racing; the original OutRun gives you a more "casual" play style to avoiding traffic, however this game embraces the concept of dodging traffic. I realized that, after about three loses, making any real progress required some unorthodox strategies, and the stiff controls played a vital role. In most cases, planning starts when traffic is off in the distance, and you need to calculate your position on the road accordingly. If the road is particularly crowded, especially during turns, an excessive, quick combination of brake-adjust-accelerate is needed to evade bumper car-esque collisions. Doesn't sound all too hard, but applying the technique is like trying to input a time-sensitive cheat code.

It's really hard to explain adequately the thrill of successfully dodging a row of moving vehicles during a long, blind turn, at nearly 260kph, then narrowly reaching the adjoining checkpoint with one second to spare... in a flawed game. Irritation grew with each playthrough, but I kept coming back just for those exhilarating moments. I see and feel the passion that went into this, and that's why the problems frustrate me more than they should; the stiff controls grew on me, and had the dev fixed the off-road speed and threw in a couple more stages, this would have been a surprisingly entertaining short game available on the indie download section. But this is what you get. Ocean Drive Challenge has its surreal, blissful moments, but you have to take constant beatings to experience them.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (August 31, 2016)

I can't tell you how many times I spotted Cyber-Lip in an arcade back in the early 90s. Its title screen is etched into my memory.

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