Inertial Drift Switch Review – Twin Stick Arcade Drifting Extravaganza

Imagine Initial D in a slightly futuristic neo-Tokyo with stylish cel shaded graphics, plus twin stick drifting and you have Inertial Drift, developed by Level 91 Entertainment and published by PQube. This is a driftastic arcade racer that’s with a completely unique driving style, the left stick is your usual turn the car, though they all barely turn and will be used more to correct the drift and the right stick controls the drift angle. You drift by pointing both sticks into the bend. Mid-drift you’ll correct just like Doc taught Lightning McQueen in Cars, steer away from the turn with the left stick but often you’ll find you need to tighten the drift by releasing the gas or breaking depending on the car.

When starting you get thrown into the tutorial, the first car is nice and easy to drift unless you imagine the left stick controls the front wheels direction and the right stick controls the rear end. Then you’ve got your usual use of triggers for acceleration and breaking. 

The cars are based off real life machines with mishmashed fronts and rears, not just using traditional drift cars either. As all the cars are given a futuristic looking body kit and vivid neo paint job with a huge front bumper it’s hard to pin down exactly the car combos. We have an Maxda RX7 come Toyota MR2, a Peugeot 206 rear, an old Skyline front, a RAV4, maybe a McLaren front Lotus Elise rear, a car that could be based off the Toyota GT One and the good old barely modified classic Sprinter Trueno AE86 from Initial D. These might sound a bit of a mess but Level 91 have done a fantastic job of putting these cars together and it’s quite fun to try and work out what they’re all based off.

You only start with a handful of cars, the rest you unlock by playing through story mode and then completing a set challenge in the new car to unlock it. This keeps the game fresh and gives a reason to play through the unfortunately rather boring story mode. The story mode is great for giving a valid reason to slowly use faster and harder cars, learn some of the tracks and slowly unlock cars so I can’t fault it for that, only the uninteresting characters I couldn’t care less about, but there’s a big tick for diversity if that’s your jam. You pick one of 4 characters (the 4th you do need to unlock by finishing one other person’s story) and the game gives their cars stats and difficulty and away you go! 

Throughout story you have 3 events at each of 5 tracks, do some time trials, race some ghosts, race some more ghosts in the guise of an actual race, race some more ghosts in a duel, have gameplay nicely broken up by a really fun style mode where you gain points for your drifts and being near the edges, have checkpoint chasing endurance races and meet some friendly people you’ll have absolutely zero interest in. The duels are the most interesting game mode where you gain more points the further you are in front of your foe, the first to reach 1000 or the highest score across the line wins. In standard races and ghost battles you race against one single ghost as cars phase shift through each other, it’s a real shame you don’t race against 3-7 opponents as you can’t collide anyway. 

Along with story mode the other big draw here is Grand Prix which is like a traditional arcade mode with 5 events for each car, the events are set but different for each car and will take a lot of time and skill to complete. It’s not just learning the tracks that’s the difficult thing, it’s learning the cars themselves as each car handles and drifts differently, I feel for most people a tutorial for each car to help you learn their unique drifting style would help reduce the extremely steep learning curve there is for many of the cars. Every mode is tough as nails and will likely have you practicing like crazy to learn the course and cars if you want to unlock everything. It’s extremely rewarding when you do finish a 5 event Grand Prix or unlock a car through challenge mode, you really feel as if you’ve achieved something great. The difficulty makes an already very niche game even more niche however there is an awful lot to enjoy if you want to learn every car and complete their Grand Prix, or set world records across all the modes and tracks.

The style mode events that crop up from time or time or you pick in the free race like arcade mode really adds a lot to the game as the drifting is ridiculously fun in Inertial Drift even if it is really hard to master in most cars but there’s one car that absolutely loves to drift beautifully that was clearly made for style mode so even if you’re not fast you can enjoy the drifting bliss and be super stylish at the same time.

Drifting through curvy mountains, countryside and neon cities couldn’t be more chill than in Inertial Drift especially with the relaxing EDM soundtrack. Even though you’re often frantically trying to shave off seconds before you’ve mastered a car and tenths once you have, I found the whole experience extremely relaxing. Except when I just could not get to grips with how a car handles which unfortunately happened more than I’d care to admit.

Local Multiplayer is great fun but only really before you get good at the game otherwise it’ll be extremely one sided even if you try cars you can’t use properly as there’s such a difference in pace even within the 3 car classes, particularly the slowest C class cars. There is online multiplayer however I couldn’t get a game to test it, it’s a shame as you only race ghosts they don’t have an asynchronous mode of 8 or so player races where the race slowly becomes more populated as more people take part. 

I love love love the art style in Inertial Drift, of the cars and tracks anyway, but that’s the important part. Level 91 have perfectly captured what an arcade drift game should be about and look like and the body kits on the cars to avoid licensing issues also look sublime, you can tell a lot of love and care went into the designs of both the tracks and cars.

Inertial Drift is like ham and pineapple pizza, everyone is going to have a different opinion on it down to personal tastes. Some might love drifting in games, some will want to top the leaderboards, some will love the insane challenge for an arcade racer. For me it’s particularly like the ham and pineapple because Inertial Drift is greater than the sum of its parts, there’s nothing technically incredible about it other than the stylish graphics but Level 91 have created an incredibly fun game that I love to chill out with and enjoy the drift.

A huge thank you to PQube and Level 91 Entertainment for providing the review code. Inertial Drift is available now on the eShop for £16.99/€19.99/$19.99.

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