Sometimes a game comes along with a concept so crazy, it’s hard not to be impressed. Case in point, Buck Up and Drive by solo developer Fábio Fontes.
While OutRun is the most obvious comparison at a glance, the game is more involved than the seminal arcade. There is the expected driving, drifting, and checkpoints with the choice of paths forward. Ramps, however, shoot your car up into the air, allowing it to do some wild tricks, and it can grind on guard rails as well. While in the air, tricks are chained together to turn your car into a gazelle bounding frantically back and forth across the open road. Drift into too many other cars, and the police will be in hot pursuit, ramming you & other citizens out of their way and tossing spiky mines & petty warrants in your path. It’s endless, with the traffic getting heavier, cops getting more intense, and stages becoming longer until time runs out.
But that’s not all! The game also incorporates a separate car based fighting mode, all without having to fire up Fighters Megamix on your Saturn for a mirror match of the Hornet. Two car-batants charge at each other on a straight highway to nowhere, with a modest move list, spinning, bouncing, & flipping around in a mad dance of battle. It’s like being a child again, not knowing how cars work or what physics are, and mashing your die-cast cars into each other to make them fight. Similar to the Duel mode in Streets of Rage, it’s not complex but it sure is a fun addition.
The game captures that System 16, blue sky look, using simple textures on 3D objects like the cars, and sprites zooming past in the background. Crash test robots burst out of victims of your road rage, browsing their cellphones or holding detached steering wheels, and there’s liberal use of speed lines. Instead of boring units like kilometers, distance & speed are measured in ‘fastometers’ and ‘fasts per hour’. The stages that blaze past are colorful, ranging from expected settings like the city & the beach to the fantastical, like the moon & a highway of clouds in the sky. More cars can be unlocked by defeating them in the single player mode, and they can be lightly customized with colors & decals, as well as the option to mod in your own. Think all those pride flags popping up along the road are meddlesome ‘politics’? Too bad, loser! The only choice is between some and *ALL* flags for the billboards.
Buck Up and Drive is a throw away gag – a “playable shitpost” of a game in the developer’s own words – that is nonetheless executed so, so well. The premise is quite absurd and it’s by no means a deep game, but it’s committed to the bit and all the better for it. It was one of the most irreverent games released in 2021 and it’s telling just how much Sega goodness it evokes. There really is no idea too harebrained that can’t be turned into something that makes the universe a little bit brighter of a place to be.