For many people, the 1980s is remembered as a pretty culturally significant decade, particularly in the technology and entertainment sectors. A plethora of iconic films, video game systems, and pieces of music all originated in this era. Heck, even the internet we know today had its start in the second half of that historic decade. As such, there are plenty of warm fuzzy feelings of times past that many want to distill into something playable. And I think Retro Drive Studio has succeeded with their latest game, Retro Drive Revamped.
A revamped racer
As the name suggests, Retro Drive Revamped is actually a reworked edition of the mobile version of Retro Drive. Offering updated levels and physics, alongside other quality-of-life updates, this version is destined for both PC and Nintendo Switch. After a chance meeting with one of the developers from Retro Drive Studio at WASD x IGN 2023, I was offered a Steam key for the Beta version to try out.
Retrowave at its finest
One of the strongest aspects of Retro Drive Revamped is its vibe. Leaning heavily into the Outrun/Retrowave aesthetic, classic elements like gridlines and bright neon are majorly on show here. The Synthwave soundtrack is stacked with songs from the likes of Fantom ‘87, Sunglasses Kid, and Michael Oakley. There is also an abundance of era-appropriate references and easter eggs, with the highlight probably being the collectable videotapes that not-so-subtly parody films released back then. In short, there was a precise retrofuturistic vision for the look and feel of this game, and I think the developers realised that vision stupidly well.
Gameplay-wise, this is a fairly typical arcade racing experience. Race to the finish line, avoid obstacles and collect pickups for bonuses. There is nothing crazy new here, but what is on offer is very competently put together. The variety of obstacles really helps spice things up. Red and green cars both hinder and help, with the red cars blocking progress and the green cars giving the player a storable speed boost. Oil slicks are super annoying, making the car skid out of control. I feel like they completely derail the flow of the game, and I ended up just restarting each run after I got caught up in one of these. The effects don’t last for very long, but the car becomes so uncontrollable, it’s hardly worth trying to steady oneself.
There are plenty more obstacles to discuss, but the other main ones I wanted to mention are the laser gates. These completely disintegrate the player’s car, forcing the race to begin again. This caused a few heart-in-my-mouth moments and are the things that really up the difficulty and challenge. It is pretty exhilarating dodging past these, especially with a more souped-up car. Now that I mention it – buy another car as fast as possible. Don’t wait to buy the higher-tier ones. As soon as the minimum required points have been collected, spend them. The initial car is extremely slow and cumbersome.
I tried Retro Drive Revamped on both my Steam Deck and PC. It could technically run on both, although some of the controls on Steam Deck were a little janky. In particular, the menu system didn’t want to play nicely. Of course, it isn’t verified for Deck yet, so I wouldn’t consider this to be a true representation of the game at this point. Everything seemed to run fine once installed on my PC, and it handled the connected wireless Xbox Series X controller like a champ.
I did come across a few minor issues. For some reason, the Master volume was defaulted at a super low volume, which I easily fixed by cranking up the volume in the settings. Thankfully, This didn’t re-occur in future play sessions. My car did default back to the starter vehicle every time I loaded up a save though. That was annoying. I didn’t uncover any game-breaking bugs or glitches though, and everything seemed quite polished.
Overall, I think Retro Drive Revamped is an enjoyable time capsule of nostalgia. Whilst it doesn’t really bring much new to the arcade racer genre, it excels in having a strong visual and musical style. For people who enjoy 1980s culture, this is an easy recommendation.
Disclaimer: A code was provided for this game to aid in writing this review.