Driift Mania

Did you mean Drift Mania? No, it’s really Driift. Driift Mania is a 2D top down racer on WiiWare with responsive controls, twitchy handling, and very addictive gameplay. It’s easy to pick up and play: hold the Wii Remote sideways and just hold 2 to go, 1 to reverse, and press left and right to steer; no motion control or powerups.

While the gameplay is very simple, getting around the course smoothly is anything but, as this screenshot clearly demonstrates. 5th place is driving head first into a wall, the green car above is going the wrong way, and there’s a humpfest going on for the lead as 1st place is about to flip sideways with only two wheels on the jump. This game is action PACKED, and it’s all thanks to the great “drifting” physics. You don’t simply press up on the dpad to drive up, you press left and right to angle the car. The car requires constant control and corrections to stay straight, and flinging it into a corner is a real art.  It’s very satisfying being able to rip through corners with the rear of the car sideways.

A huge highlight of the game is the ability to play with 8 players at once on the same screen / console. 4 players use the Wiimote while 4 use the Nunchuck, which uses C and Z as forward and reverse. It might seem restricted, but with 8 people huddled around one screen, you’re going to be close enough that the Nunchuck cord length will not be an issue. If your closest rival has their Nunchuck connected to your Wiimote, there’s a chance you’ll accidently disconnect it, but life’s full of risks. You can also plug in a Classic Controller, but it’s a bit pointless since you only need two buttons. Nunchuck users actually have an advantage here of only needing one hand to play.

The camera never moves from the top down view so everyone can always see where they’re going. This is important because even when you’re in 1st place by a mile, you’ll come across two or three idiots who somehow ended up in the middle of the road driving into each other. Contact with anything – another car or a wall / obstacle – will have a huge impact on your handling. It’ll bump you off balance no matter what, and you need to correct yourself without going overboard and spinning out of control. The collision detection makes a big impact on the gameplay: you don’t just glitch through other cars, you feel them. With 8 people racing around a short 10-20 second lap, shit will happen every race, and dealing with everything that comes at you is the key to victory in this game. It makes every race different in a similar way to Mario Kart.

15 tracks and 32 different cars give the game quite a bit of variety. The tracks range from standard city and forest settings to snow and desert, and they all feature different shortcuts, alternate paths, and obstacles like mud, ice, and hills that affect handling. All the different cars have their own feel, and as you progress it unlocks some radically different designs. The go-kart feels a lot different to the giant duck on wheels. The game also has a number of different multiplayer modes (and that number is 6), which involve creative team work, tag battles, and avoiding meteorites.

In single player you progress in championships through the different types of stages, and you can do a custom championship with any or all of the 15 tracks as well. It doesn’t take long to beat all the championships, as the races generally last just over a minute, with 4-8 laps depending on the track. The game has a nice simple presentation style and a few catchy tunes compliment it nicely.

My small beefs with the game are the absence of a Time Trial mode, and no online multiplayer. The game is already addictive enough but these would’ve been fantastic, and without them the single player package feels a bit empty. I’ve had this game for a few years now and still come back to it; it’s been permanently on the first page of my main Wii screen since I got it. It’s a good game to have “ready” for when 7 people come over and they all want to play a top down racer. Happens all the time.

Bottom line – this game is great, highly recommended for the multiplayer experience, and the single player is still worth it if you’re a fan of top down racers. The physics are rewarding and the AI puts up a decent challenge. Driift Mania is well made, and despite the controls and handling being “challenging”, rather than being a barrier for new players, it’s what makes the game addictive. Anyone can jump straight in and have a good time fighting for 1st place or 5th.

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