Neo Drift Out (1996)
By: Visco Corp Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: SNK Neo Geo MVS
Also Available For: Neo Geo AES & CD, Arcade (variation)
From around the early to mid-90's the stagnating genre of overhead racing games suddenly saw something of a revival when lots of rally-based variations started appearing. Many companies made offerings but credit for this sub-genre can largely be given to Visco Corp. Their 1991 game, Drift Out, though frustrating and tricky to play, was one of the first games of this type and swapped the traditional overhead racing game viewpoint for a zoomed-in perspective which allowed for much more detail and longer, more complex courses. It wasn't hugely successful but sufficiently so to give rise to two sequels. The first of these had the superb idea of shifting the viewpoint further still to an angled-overhead perspective and the game was much better as a result but it still had its problems. I'm hoping this sequel, using Neo Geo hardware, would attend to them.
One of the additions Drift Out 94 made to the original game was the inclusion of an official license for the available cars. While this game retains that license it unfortunately has fewer cars to choose from with your options being limited to the good old Evo, Impreza, and Celica. Each of them differs with regards to their speed, control, and body but it doesn't really make a dramatic difference which one you go for. After you've selected a car you'll get a short practise stage to race on before beginning the game proper. There are six courses in all - European, African, Snow, Southern Hemisphere, Scandinavia, and Great Britain - and they're set over the kind of terrains you might expect to find - tarmac, gravel, dirt, snow/ice, and sand.
As with the prequel, each course has to be completed within a pretty strict time limit in order to qualify for the next one and they are arguably more testing than before too with regard to the sheer frequency of harsh corners. It seems every other turn here is a hairpin, right-angle, or chicane, and there are numerous short-cuts and obstacles as well. For example, the snow stage features slippy ice patches and course-encroaching snow drifts! Fortunately your car is more than sufficient for power-sliding around most of them, but impact with any obstacles or trackside objects knocks it around costing you speed and therefore time. Luckily nothing effects it too severely though. Much like real rallying, you're racing against the clock rather than other cars directly but it is possible to catch up other racers (or be overtaken) if you're good (or bad) enough!
The first Drift Out was fairly innovative for its time but it did have pretty frustrating gameplay. Luckily Drift Out '94 did a lot to improve the basic formula of its predecessor but both were memory tests, and that remains the case with this Neo Geo update. That's about all it is too, really - an update. Graphically things haven't changed much, for one thing. In fact, I think I'd even say that the last game has slightly superior visuals to this one but there's really not much in it. The previous game has a little more detail in its scenery but this game is noticeably faster which actually doesn't make it more difficult, surprisingly, since the course designs here are a little more straightforward. The short cuts add some variety to each race too, but the accompanying music and sound effects are nothing special once again. Neo Drift Out is basically a faster version of Drift Out '94 with less cars but different, and slightly less-confusing course designs, which basically means it rectifies none of its predecessors faults but creates no more either. It's great fun though and is probably the most playable of the three Drift Out games, but not by enough to get an extra point!
RKS Score: 7/10