Also On: PC
Publisher: Strangely Named Studio
Developer: Strangely Named Studio
Squint your eyes and tilt your head at just the right angle when looking at Bears Can't Drift!?, and you'll be able to see the makings of a decent kart racer. The titular bears control their karts pretty well. The tracks are varied, and exist in vibrant, colourful, and, most importantly, diverse worlds. It has the usual modes any kart racer needs to succeed (race, obviously, and time trials), plus one to set it apart (a neat spin on combat that asks you to pick up as much food as possible). On the whole, it's not devoid of charm.
Unfortunately, look at Bears Can't Drift!? straight on, and its problems become a little more apparent. Take those bears, for example: while they're undeniably cute, they have zero personality. Your bear, in particular, is a plain brown bear, and it gets kind of dull after awhile to see the same brown blob in the middle of the screen the whole game. This lack of personality extends to the karts as well. Like the bears, they have zero distinguishing features, and there's no option to customize them or give them anything in the way of a personality.
Or, at least, I don't think there is. See, one of Bears Can't Drift!?'s lesser faults is that it does a really lousy job of explaining itself. If you're ever played any kind of racer before — kart or otherwise — you'll be able to figure out the basics, but once you get beyond that, you're on your own. I still have no idea what one of the power-ups does, for example; I know that picking up a gecko-type creature makes swirls appear around your kart, but I have no idea what they're doing. Likewise, while your bear can drift, it feels like there's more to it than meets the eye: drift for any extended length of time and you'll start to kick up red (then blue) sparks…but despite my best efforts, I still haven't figured out why those sparks appear.
Even worse, I can't figure out how to change the difficulty. I know there are three different entrances featuring bears of differing friendliness that I suspect correlate to Easy/Medium/Hard, but the Easy and Medium entrances both ultimately lead to the same place, while the Hard entrance doesn't seem to lead anywhere. On a similar note, you earn stars for winning races, except for the life of me I can't tell how those stars correlate to your performance.
Bears Can't Draft!? gets most confusing, though, when it comes to its tracks. Yes, the good news is that they're colourful and they're varied. The thing is, they're also very long, and don't come with any minimaps that help you figure out where you are in relation to the courses themselves or the other racers. Considering that some tracks take several minutes per lap and don't have much in the way of signage — they don't even let you know when you're going backwards, in fact – and you can see why they can occasionally feel a little frustrating.
Having said all that, I don't think Bears Can't Drift!? is hopelessly irredeemable. It has more than its share of flaws, to be sure, but pretty much all of those flaws are things that, hopefully, can be fixed with a few patches. Moreover, once those patches are implemented, as I said, I can see the game turning into a pretty decent kart racer.
For now, though? Right now, unfortunately, it's a bit of a brightly-coloured, confusing mess, and you're better off waiting and seeing whether they fix everything.