Back to the FutureGrind: Fast, Frantic, Fun

It would be easy to dismiss FutureGrind as a budget title without a lot to offer. After all, at first glance it appears to be a sort of rail-based platform racer without a ton of variety backing up the admittedly clean and cool visuals. However, after only a few minutes of play, it becomes obvious that FutureGrind is something special: a challenging, twitch-action, high-speed stunt game with a few more twists than its simple premise suggests.

In the future, the most popular sport involves riding rails on a dual-wheeled bike. The twist is that only one wheel is typically in contact with the rail at any given time. Players can freely rotate the wheels around their bike, giving them the ability to both pull off some wicked stunts, as well as determine which wheel they’re riding on.

You’ll jump and double-jump from track to track, avoiding the many pits that attempt to bring your run to a tragic end. And you will fail a lot. The game never feels like an exercise in memorization, fortunately, but training yourself to make each jump just right will take some practice. Fortunately, there’s pretty much no delay after death, and you’re thrown right back in to the action. The days of long load screens between deaths are a distant memory here.

Not only will you ride on top of rails, but you can hang below them, too. You can stick to the bottom, or let your wheel ride on top while you hang below. To take home the best score possible, you’ll want to ride the rails creatively and perform as many flips and jumps as possible, all while avoiding the plain white rails, which, while safe, will eliminate your score multiplier.

Speaking of the plain white rails, it’s time to talk about one of the major ways in which FutureGrind keeps things interesting. Rails come in a variety of colors. Plain white, as I mentioned, are safe but offer no sort of bonus for grinding on them. Where you’ll want to spend your time are the colored rails. Each of your wheels is a different color, which corresponds to a color a track might be. You must ride rails that match the color of the particular wheel that is touching it. If you mess up and put, say, a blue wheel on a red track, you’re dead.

This turns FutureGrind into a true challenge, coupling the need to pull off cool stunts with the practical necessity of staying in control enough to avoid landing on the wrong wheel. Different bikes offer their own unique playstyles, with differently positioned and sized wheels that provide a variety of challenges.

One unexpected treat comes in the plot department. I never expected there to be a plot at all, so the fact that there is one comes as a surprise. It won’t blow your mind, but the intrigue provides a nice additional incentive to continue through the story mode.

For $20, this is a fantastic value. Fifteen years ago, a game as full and fun as this would have run more than twice that, and probably not been nearly as refined, too. Games like FutureGrind make me hopeful about the future of indie games.

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