Everything old is new again in LoneDev’s new racer Synthwave Dream ‘85. Featuring neon-drenched cityscapes, atmospheric beats, and a garage of rides that would make Knight Rider’s KITT proud, should you take a time machine to a simpler time?
Hit It or Quit It – Synthwave Dream ‘85
The goal of Synthwave Dream ‘85 is a simple one. Picking a radical ride of your choosing, players must drive along an endless procedurally generated track, hitting crazy fast speeds and drifting to get points. When we say crazy speeds, we absolutely mean it – players will go from 0 to 200 kilometers per hour in a matter of seconds. There is also a nitro that is very generous with its boost power, which can get that number to 300 kilometers per hour and beyond.
However, simply going fast won’t get you anywhere…so to speak. In honor to get a high score, players must utilize both their brake and emergency brake, creating a drift that leaves a skidmark for the ages. This mechanic has been utilized quite well in series like Mario Kart, Ridge Racer, and Burnout, but the physics found here don’t work quite as well.
Steering in Synthwave Dream ‘85 is somewhat stiff, making it feel like you’re fighting with the controls as much as the countersteering. The high speeds and narrow tracks make it easy to careen off course, which can automatically end the game if players don’t right their path in a set amount of time. It is also far too easy for the car to clip the edge of the track, making it impossible to get back on the track. What would normally be an easy thing to remedy is borderline impossible due to the way each car handles.
This is made that much more difficult with the life meter that each car has. Your whip will blow up if it goes to zero, but players can earn health by drifting and using nitro at the same time. This is a risky proposition, and it normally would be welcome if it weren’t for the fact that many tracks generated are either straight shots or narrow. Handmade courses would have gone a long way here, and the air of randomness that comes with no two tracks being the same makes things that much more difficult.
In random spots money can be netted by driving over floating dollar signs. Though this is a nice addition that incentivizes multiple playthroughs, everything in the game’s garage is far too expensive. Spoilers and wheels are easy enough to acquire, but getting $250 when a car costs $70000 takes far too long.
The game does deserve some points for its presentation. The thumping beats, CRT filter, and vignetting are nice touches, as is the old school VHS and computer presentation. There are some bugs as of this writing – music would drop out and would not return without us restarting the game. Also note that the game has some horrendous load times – it took us 33 seconds to boot the game up on our gaming PC.
Synthwave Dream ‘85 nails its 80s atmosphere, but its gameplay is somewhat dated. The procedurally generated levels and rigid drifting physics simply do not get along, forcing players to fight the game at every mile of their drive.