Top-down racers can be great fun offering a refreshing alternative to the more traditional takes on the genre. The Micro Machines series, for example, is rooted in my brain for the countless hours lost racing – sometimes blindly – across pool tables and kitchen counters with my friends while the SNES release Super Off Road impressed with its ability to fit everything including the track itself within a single aerial view. BAFL: Brakes Are For Losers definitely leans more toward the latter case as it attempts to deliver a similar arcade-like experience all within a single screen but can it recapture the same satisfying feeling?
Take one quick look at BAFL: Brakes Are For Losers and you know what you’re getting into. Played from a top-down perspective your only goal is to outrace your opponents. It’s that simple. The big gimmick of the game as you could probably guess from its title though is that you have no brakes. Instead, you’re constantly hurtling around trying your very best to keep in control of your vehicle and complete as many laps as possible within a time limit. The controls certainly take some getting used to – pressing left or right to turn in that direction while a quick button press offers a boost of speed – especially since you’re moving so quickly and the tracks aren’t exactly very wide.
It’s an interesting idea on paper but also brings me to one of my bigger complaints with the game – you rarely feel in enough control. A lot of my time spent with the game would see me grinding against the walls especially on some of the tougher tracks. Furthermore, when seven other racers were added to the mix this only served to make getting around even more of a nightmare not only because of the way my car felt to drive but also how easy it was to lose track of where I was amidst the pack.
In terms of single-player content, the game offers two types of challenges. The first is your simple time trial affair that sees you racing around a set number of laps as fast as possible. The second meanwhile focuses instead on measuring how long you can speed around before hitting the track’s sides. Both types have three checkered flags to collect each one earned by achieving a certain time or distance. Sadly the controls never feel precise enough to meet the pinpoint precision required of some of the game’s tracks. Even the lowest of these prove a tough enough challenge and since the game gates, your progress based on how many checkered flags you obtain it can make this a far more frustrating experience to reach more tracks.
It is clear BAFL: Brakes Are For Losers was created very much with multiplayer in mind, it’s hectic and imprecise controls a perfect fit for a more casual, couch-play experience. Rather unexpectedly, the game offers support for up to eight players, a figure that if you can reach will only serve to heighten the bedlam on screen but also the fun. For as shallow as the racing can feel when competing against other AI alone, here it thrives a little more since everyone else is in the same boat trying their best to handle their car and simply make it around the track in one piece.
Championship mode plays out just as you might expect, pitting you in a series of races with the better you finish position-wise amounting to more points. A neat twist on this familiar mode type is that between races you can upgrade your car in a number of areas including speed, handling and armour (brakes are also an option but merely a joke inclusion since their cost is so inflated). Quick race is exactly what you’d expect getting you right into the action while the game also offers the option to customize your experience – everything from the number of bots and races to pick-ups and whether you’re racing at night or day. You are also able to alter the win requirements from the time limit to the more traditional first to finish a certain number of laps or simply survive the longest.
All in all, I felt disappointed with not only the amount of content available in the game – tracks are limited while unlocks are barely existent – but the variety and inventiveness on offer. While the multiplayer is certainly the high point, racing alone in time trials or as cleanly as possible is hardly breaking new ground and a lack of unlockables or rewards means competing in championships feels a little hollow should you be victorious. It feels like there could be more to offer the player with this sort of game.
From a presentation standpoint, BAFL: Brakes Are For Losers is a simple but colourful looking game that sometimes struggles to make it clear which racer is which. I do enjoy the interactive menu that sees you literally driving to the option you want to select – a neat touch and probably one of the more clever features of the game.
BAFL: Brakes Are For Losers delivers a chaotic, messy multiplayer experience sure to provide a few laughs even if more often than not it’s down to watching others trying to deal with the wild handling of its vehicles. An overall lack of both variety and content, however, prevent this title from reaching its full potential relegating it to a short and shallow distraction.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Playdius