Deceptively simple is how Absolute Drift: Zen Edition describes itself and, if there’s one thing the racing genre tackles in varying degrees, its getting sideways. Its a skill which I’ve never always seen eye-to-eye with but Flippfly are trying to keep it clean and basic whilst offering some potential for mastery in its mechanics. Can it maintain forward momentum or will it spin out over time?
The game takes place in a very clean, sterile universe not unlike Super Hot and the soundtrack is very reminiscent of OlliOlli’s score. The two styles combine beautifully to provide a very chill experience that’s enjoyable to zone out to. The overhead perspective really strikes a chord with anyone who played with toy cars as a kid. That’s ostensibly the overarching vibes I get from this title. It’s a toy box you can kill time with and you’ll generally feel it’s time well spent. Obstacles to tackle are clearly marked in red and contrast well with the predominantly white walls and your tires lay down tracks to give you a clear indication of where you’re coming from and where you’re headed. Its all put together nicely into a cohesive style.
After an effective and brief set of tutorial events, you’re unleashed on to the game’s handful of hub worlds. Controlling your vehicle is kept real simple. Drifts are easy to initiate with a tap of the brake and a little counter-steer. With this being the case, you’re free to concentrate on trying to drive with precision. Losing control comes at little cost beyond losing your multiplier so keep it out of barriers if you want to keep your multiplier alive. The handbrake gets used to also initiate drifts and spins and using your brakes effectively is key to getting things sideways. It feels consistent and relatively intuitive and stringing drifts together can be very rewarding.
Progress between each world is gated by completing mission objectives that are scattered throughout the level. Completing them all unlocks the next world and they range from performing doughnuts around obstacles, drifting between things jumping certain gaps. You can tackle them in any order and there’s no pressures such as time or score to deal with. Just do the thing and move on to the next. Its compelling to just drift around looking for goals to fulfil and it gives you a stress-free arena to hone your skills and practice your car control. I will say that mainlining that results in a brief excursion of a couple of hours. This short time on the clock still feels like a negative, although it’s negated a little with leaderboards and chasing event objectives. Your mileage will vary but I’m struggling to return to it for long spells. There’s a very good core on display and, now the free-roam mode is done, I can access the other events from the main menu.
Finishing a world grants you a new car to shred around with and they all offer different strengths and weaknesses. There’s perhaps not much incentive to change to different vehicles besides your personal preference. Some are easier to manoeuvre than others and have different speeds but so little of this game is under time constraints. The race events scattered across the levels are varied and offer standard drift events as well as gymkhana playgrounds. You’re scored throughout with optional targets marked down to unlock further goodies. Its not essential to progress through Absolute Drift but, without them, the game would seem bare. Full leaderboard support is on hand and these events are fun enough to replay them for bragging rights and unlocking whatever you’ve missed. You can reset your progress entirely, if you fancy revisiting the hub worlds with the missions intact. There’s not much reason to do unless you want to replay the game from scratch. I feel like having scoring active in these worlds might’ve at least given the game a little more legs. At this point, it feels like something best savoured in short bursts.
Absolute Drift: Zen Edition offers a relaxed but challenging drifting experience that, whilst really short, has a few reasons to revisit the tarmac. The controls offer the right amount of feedback whilst the levels are fun to drive around and explore. Leaderboards give you something to chase once the credits roll and there’s some serious satisfaction gained just from self-improvement. It’s a well-realised effort with a clean aesthetic and it’s worth a look if you fancy something to master. Just beware it’s a brief encounter otherwise.