Forever Drive is not, as the name might suggest, a celebration of Nicholas Winding Refn’s impossibly cool paean to Eighties European cinema. Although it features plenty of cruising around neon-drenched streets, it doesn’t have Ryan Gosling being all silent and moody; there’s no unwatchably brutal violence, nor does it make you sit through several minutes of meaningful looks in slo-mo as a gorgeous, thudding electropop soundtrack subliminally whispers “you will buy me on iTunes the minute you leave the cinema”.
Nope. Instead it’s a game where you simply drive. Tap or tilt, the choice is yours, as you race through stylised cityscapes halfway between Tron and a Michael Mann film. Rather than loop through three to five laps of the same circuit, however, you race across a continuous track constructed entirely by the game’s users, with a few sections from the game’s creators for good measure. It’s an intriguing concept, but does the game do it justice?
Constructing a track is incredibly simple: you trace a line with your finger, then decorate it with a little scenery. There’s a fairly strict limit on just how much you can embellish your creation, presumably to keep the file size manageable enough to stream to other players, but it’s a simple and intuitive process designed to encourage players to build as well as to race.
The driving part is equally simplistic. With acceleration handled automatically, you merely need to tap the sides of the screen, or tilt your iDevice in the appropriate direction to turn. You’re given a limited amount of time to reach the next checkpoint – hit the edges of the track and other vehicles and you’ll lose valuable seconds – but once you reach the marker your clock will be topped up. Reach the finish line and the game will display your score, as well as giving you the opportunity to rate or slate that particular track before moving onto the next.
It’s curiously hypnotic for something so straightforward, and at its heart there’s a little feedback loop that might explain why it’s so addictive. Each track gives you a certain amount of experience points which gradually unlock extra content – new vehicles, paint jobs, licence plates and so on. You’ll open up new scenery packs with which to prettify your own tracks, too.
We’re less fond of the credits system, which allows you to level up ten times faster by spending a token, and given the rather capricious nature of the tracks (some have very well-spaced checkpoints; in others you can drive flawlessly and barely scrape through) it does feel inconsistent. But if you get a duff track, you’re usually only 30 seconds away from a different one, and the thrifty and time-rich need never spend a penny. No Ryan Gosling, then, but you’d certainly feel a little more comfortable getting into a lift with this.
Forever Drive is free on the iTunes App Store for iPhone and iPad. A pack of 20 credits costs 69p.