Wednesday, January 23, 2019

FutureGrind Review (PS4)

You like Trials? I like Trials. Everyone seems to like Trials. That challenging and satisfying blend of 2D platforming on a motorbike is really fun and addictive, after all. Now imagine if Trials had even more depth and strategy and you'd get the new 2D action / racing / platformer from Milkbag Games called FutureGrind. FutureGrind shakes up the Trials formula by featuring different colored wheels that can only touch the same color rails so you have to flip your bike and think quickly in order to continue down the track. The result is gameplay that is even more satisfying and mind bending and a ton of fun. Continue reading our full FutureGrind review for all of the details.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Milkbag Games
  • Developer: Milkbag Games
  • ESRB Rating: "E" for Everyone
  • Genre: 2D Platformer
  • Pros: Cool visuals; great feeling gameplay; satisfying variety of challenges; assist mode
  • Cons: Story 
  • Price: $20

FutureGrind features a neon-soaked futuristic sport where daring athletes perform death defying tricks high in the air as they navigate their bikes on color coded rails. There is a story here about corrupt sponsors, or something, but I honestly just ignored it all as the core gameplay is interesting enough that I didn't need motivation to keep playing.

Comparisons to the Trials franchise are impossible to avoid with FutureGrind, so let's just get it out of the way. Similar to Trials, FutureGrind is a 2D platforming game where you drive a motorbike along a path and have to jump and flip from surface to surface in order to reach the end. FutureGrind makes things a little more complex than Trials, however, by introducing colored wheels and rails. You can only touch a rail with the same color wheel, you see, which means you have to flip your bike around in order to make sure the right color is touching the rail you want. 

There are even more twists, of course, in that you can undergrind rails above you by attaching your wheel magnetically to it. You can overgrind rails by hooking your top wheel on top of a rail while your bike dangles underneath. There are some tracks that feature special pads that change the color of your wheels so you can sort of choose your path through a course based on if/when you change colors. There are also five different bikes, each with different wheel layouts and stats, that add a ton of variety and strategy to the proceedings as well. 

Just getting to the end of a course isn't your only objective, though, and FutureGrind throws yet another twist at you by making you complete specific objectives on each course. These include things like only touching certain colored rails, not rotating your bike at all, performing specific spins, performing different grinds, and much more. Just getting to the end is relatively easy here, but doing so while also completing objectives makes FutureGrind very challenging, but also very satisfying.

FutureGrind offers a few dozen tracks that greatly ramp up in challenge and complexity as you make progress. The first couple of levels seem kind of boring and tame, but by the end you have to do some pretty crazy stuff just to survive, let alone finish. Thankfully, you can instantly restart a level to try, try, try again quickly and easily. A bit surprisingly, the game also offers optional assists that let you slow the game down or even eliminate the color-coded wheel mechanic entirely. I know this seems like it makes the game too mindless, but it is a great way to learn the layout of tracks and make progress before turning the assists off and going back to previous tracks to play them for real. I really love that they weren't afraid to give you training wheels if you want them just so more people can actually see the whole game instead of getting stuck and quitting. I wish more "hardcore" 2D platforming games offered these options.

The presentation in FutureGrind is very appealing overall. The backgrounds are pretty simple, but there is quite a bit of variety thanks to different lighting and times of day so it looks good. Everything is bright and colorful and the important gameplay areas - mainly just the rails and your bike - are very clear and distinct and easy to see. The neon colors of your wheels and the rails really pop and look great, too. The sound is also a standout with a thumping electronic soundtrack that is just awesome.

All in all, FutureGrind is a fantastic fresh take on a familiar gameplay style but it goes above and beyond to stand on its own. It is more complex and strategic than a typical Trials clone, which makes it all the more satisfying. It also deserves props for being extremely challenging, but also offering fantastic assist options to help more players actually experience it all. FutureGrind is awesome and accessible and great looking and is easy to recommend at the $20 MSRP. Buy it.
Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.