After all these years, Distance has finally been released. At first, the game’s developers turned some heads with the game’s predecessor, Nitronic Rush. It got people taking student projects a lot more seriously. Before this, game design schools were still in their infancy, and the few that did exist quietly pumped out graduates without drawing much attention to themselves outside of their regular ads in game magazines.
Then Nitronic Rush came along and showed a large audience what these places were actually doing. It was a really fun, futuristic racer with its high tech cars, towering skyscrapers, and dazzling neon lights. Folks who took it for a spin wanted more.
So, now out of school, the game’s developers got together and launched a Kickstarter all the way back in 2012. Their goal was to make a bigger, better version of this game. They wanted to make Distance. So, here it is. Six years have passed, the game spend quite some time in the oven, it’s finally out of Early Access, and it doesn’t disappoint.
Right out of the gates, it is clear to see that this is a very pretty game. The folks at Refract Studios took everything that made Nitronic Rush look so good and cranked it way up for Distance. The level of detail has been ramped up considerably. Lighting is extremely vibrant without becoming a distraction. There is also an excellent sense of speed. The game just looks fantastic with its futuristic cities and cars. It really drives home that this is intended to be much more of an atmospheric racing game.
Meanwhile, it also has a very nice soundtrack. It’s all electronic music, so no wheels have been reinvented in the creation of Distance‘s soundscape. There’s just a nice mix of catchy tunes that add a lot to the experience, getting players pumped as they soar down the game’s highways in the sky.
There are actually a number of different game modes available. These include a story mode, arcade mode, and a track editor. Story mode has a couple of different narratives. After players complete the first, which consists of a little over a dozen tracks, a new story is unlocked. There isn’t much too them, but they do touch on virtual realities and simulation theory with interesting little things the game does to drive the story as players are driving. In this mode, there aren’t any other cars on the road. As a result, the game feels more like an obstacle course than an actual race.
As such, there is a certain degree of trial and error as players get used to a course layout and how their futuristic car functions in different areas. The tracks can get pretty crazy with lasers, buzzsaws, and other obstacles that must be avoided. Meanwhile, there are areas where players must rotate their car 90 or even 180 degrees to ride the walls and ceilings. Then there are other sections that require the vehicle to sprout wings and fly. So, there is a lot to deal with just trying to get to the finish line.
With that, players will quickly notice that their car has a lot of thrusters on it. These allow it to jump, rotate, push itself into the ground, and, of course, there is also a big one on the back of the thing for a speed boost. These provide quite a lot of additional maneuverability, open the door to tricks, and need to be constantly monitored so not to overheat the engine, destroying the car.
All of these flips and barrel rolls that the thrusters provide also come into play with some of Distance’s arcade modes. Some of these modes are very straightforward. For instance, there’s sprint. Here players just try to be the first to the finish or challenge mode which is more obstacle courses. Then there is stunt mode with tracks specially designed to accommodate particularly death defying maneuvers for big scores. There is also a neat mode where players can type in any word they want. The game will take this and generate a track based on it.
Due to all of the maneuverability of the cars, solid controls are important. With that, Distance is very responsive, but most players will likely go through a bit of a learning curve getting used to things. There are a lot of thrusters to deal with and it’s not exactly intuitive given how novel these vehicles are. So, players shouldn’t be too surprised if they spend their first hour or so in the game crashing into walls or falling off of the race course. Everything is going to feel a bit weird at first. It’s not the end of the world, though. Once everything clicks, it’s extremely satisfying nailing particularly tough parts of a given track, shaving seconds off of one’s personal best time.
If the modes and tracks that the game provides aren’t quite enough, there is also a level editor. Here players can design tracks to their heart’s content. It also means that people can download tracks from a massive database of user-created content. As such, there are a ton of tracks to fiddle around with for those so inclined.
Regardless of what mode one plays, there is just so much to enjoy in Distance. It looks and sounds fantastic. There is lots and lots of content. Then, once players get used to controlling the cars, it’s super rewarding nailing difficult tracks. It’s been a long time coming, but the finished version of Distance is here and it was definitely worth the wait.
Distance is currently available for Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam.