Playing Brakes Are For Losers is an excruciating experience. It’s a game that puts in minimal effort to callback to arcade racers of old, yet still fails as if it were trying to be too ambitious.
Publisher: Playdius, Plug In Digital
Released: October 18, 2017
Copy Provided by Publisher
A Broken Neck
The conceit behind Brakes Are For Losers is right there in the title. This is an old-school inspired arcade racing game, only you can’t brake or slow down. And that’s it. As much as I’d like to say there are added layers here behind that concept, there really aren’t. It’s just a stock-standard racing game without the ability to slow down.
There’s just no variety and no depth on offer. Oh sure, There’s boosting which you can freely do up to three times, and even projectile attacks like in Mario Kart. But the hazards you can lay down pop up at random, and deploy the moment you touch them, so there’s no strategy.
On top of that are the completely broken controls. Playing this game with a keyboard is an absolute no go, as apparently not having brakes also means not having any control over steering. Every car has a tendency to swerve, seemingly at random, and trying to wrestle it with the WASD is impossible. It’s manageable with an analog stick on a controller, but it still feels awful.
Rather than actually steering, you swerve your car in a general direction you want it to go. All made worse by the fact that each car takes ages to actually respond to your input, whether you’re on a controller or keyboard. And whenever you hit a wall, you bounce off and are flung in a completely different direction, so you have to re-re-correct. It’s so bad it’s impossible to ever go in a straight line.
Not being able to brake, the awful steering, and the hazards all come together to make you feel like you have absolutely no control over anything. In countless races I never finished better than six out of eight, always smashing into walls, going the wrong direction, or running into other cars. I thought maybe it was just me, but playing with a friend resulted in the same situation. Further proof comes from the AI opponents, all of whom bash into walls and get stuck just as often as I did. During one race, one of the cars went the wrong way for the entire race.
In one championship run, I just sat there, not touching the controller for all ten races. It just let me keep going, doing the next race every time, giving me money for upgrades, even though I did nothing and came in last place every time. Not only that, but I got Steam achievements for competing in races too. There’s no penalty for failure in this game. Case in point, your car has a health bar that goes down if you get hit, but you can never die – you’ll just temporarily wreck and get repaired automatically until you can go to a pit stop, which you’ll end up doing whether you want to or not because of the awful controls.
Even the main menu is a clustertruck. There isn’t a menu in the traditional sense, instead you have to steer your car through various roads to access different options and play modes. It uses the same controls as the base game and has the same problem as a result. That means that simply trying to start a race in this game feels like a chore of the highest magnitude.
Making an arcade racer is as simple an idea as it comes in game development, even adding in the wrinkle of not being able to stop your car. The degree with which Oudidon screwed it up is a remarkable feat.
As You’d Expect
There’s an online mode as you’d expect where you can compete against other players. There’s a solo campaign as you’d expect where you compete against AI, and there are various different modes like time trial or perfect race as you’d expect. There are different power ups and attacks, as you’d expect.
There are different tracks with different layouts and additional accoutrements like cars on the track, meteors falling on the moon level, etc. But none of it matters. Because of the broken controls and identical handling of the cars, every track might as well be the same. Any obstacles in your way are no different than other racers and walls. Even the music sounds dull and lifeless.
If there was some kind of magic cookie-cutter mold for video games, developer Oudidon must have found it and used it, because this is all as factory standard as it comes. The level with which they almost refused to vary the formula is almost impressive in its sheer bullheadedness.
In the single player championship mode, you can get upgrades after races to various aspects – handling, steering, boost and the like that don’t actually seem to make any difference. That’s almost fair, because again, you can literally sit there and not even touch the controls and you’ll still be reward with cash to buy these upgrades after each race.
Nothing about this game works even in the slightest. It’s unplayable at the best of times, not fun in single player and a boring mess with friends. There’s no reason to play this game, not even to use its awfulness as a template for what not to do in game design – it’s too bad even for that.
- I never have to play this game again, and you never have to play it at all
- Uncontrollable handling
- Randomness of races leaves you feeling like you have no control
- Not being able to brake or slowdown also takes away player agency
- Bland overall presentation with flat graphics, a dull art style, and uninspired music
- Simply trying to start a race is a pain in the ass thanks to the menu
- Unwieldy, imprecise controls
- Upgrades that don’t feel like they do anything
- It’s impossible to tell which car you’re controlling in a scrum
- Poor AI
- Beyond all its problems, its just a boring, paint-by-numbers racing game
Brakes Are For Losers feels like it’s trying to replicate the mindless, chaotic fun of classic arcade, multiplayer racing games with its gameplay, controls, and super short races (only about a minute each). It succeeds at mindless and chaotic parts but stops well short of fun, ending up instead at frustrating and outright unplayable.