d_w's FutureGrind (PC) review

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FutureGrind is a really great balance of incredible flow state and hilarious panic.

FutureGrind is one of those games that is pretty simple to understand but has a surprising amount of depth.

This was a game I’ve been waiting a long time to play. I first heard of it at a Giant Bomb meet up at PAX west (the one with Mario Party Party 5). It really blew me away there so I’ve been following it ever since. So you can bet I was very excited for its release. Fortunately, it did not disappoint!

In this game, you pilot a futuristic bike that grinds on colored rails to earn points and get to the end of the course. It’s essentially a runner. You have little control over your speed, but are always moving forward. Each course is designed for a specific bike and you’ll be given access to different ones as your progress. Most have two grinding wheels of different colors and two air jumps, but each have something unique. For example, the Gimbal has one large wheel and one small wheel offsetting its center of balance. Another one only has one grind wheel which changes colors each time you stop grinding. Each bike takes a bit to get the feel for and fortunately there is a training area for each of them.

The handcrafted courses are what makes this game great. They take time to learn. I found myself failing over and over, only to slowly figure out my preferred path through. It honestly reminded me a lot of practicing from sheet music. It’s all out there in front of you and you just have to figure out the which buttons to press and in what order. When it call comes together, it’s amazing! When it all falls apart, it’s generally pretty hilarious. For the learning curve and how hard the game can be, I very really got angry or frustrated at it. When I inevitably crashed my reaction was usually laughter. The game has a fast reset that puts you right at the start within seconds. Which it certainly needs. I couldn’t imagine this game without it.
What amazed me about this game is often when I would start a course, I’d feel like there was no way I would complete it. By the end of my time with the game I was able to fly through these courses like they were second nature. I even got the platinum medals on a good chunk of them. I only played for about 10 hours. I can’t wait to see how those who put 100s of hours make this game look.

The controls in FutureGrind are simple. Three buttons. Four if you count the fast reset. You have rotate left and right, and jump. That’s it. That’s all you need. I could see a world where this game had some Uniracers styled tricks like twists and z-flips, but perhaps those can come in a sequel. It does a lot with a little, and the movement just feels good. The bikes spin at a good speed and there’s satisfying “chunk” when you hit a rail.

There are a decent amount of accessibility options as well. You can lower the game speed and change the colors of the rails/wheels. Stuff like that is always appreciated. Changing some options (like game speed) will prevent you from saving high scores, which I’m of two minds about. I understand why they wouldn’t want extremely good players to use those options for an advantage, but at the same time it sucks that people that need them can’t be competitive.

One other thing that’s a strange is the bonus objectives that unlock once you finish a course. Most of the time they’re simple stuff like “touch all the jump orbs,” “get X multiplier”, or “don’t touch any white rails.” Stuff that you’ll probably do attempting to get higher scores anyway. I don’t know why those sorts of objectives had to have separate entries on the menu. Then there are objectives actually alter the map in some way. Stuff that makes it so you only have one color wheel, or adds additional obstacles. There it makes sense to have a separate entry. Unfortunately, there aren’t many of these. They’re always the most interesting since they require you to rethink the path you were taking.

Lastly there are some mechanics that are under used. For example, there’s these things that will invert the colors of the rails, but they only appear in a few levels and some objectives. Then there’s environmental hazards like walls or, what I’m going to call, death orbs. These appear very rarely, the latter only appearing in the final level as far as I can recall. Stuff like this makes me hopeful that they are planning some DLC or that the game does well enough to fund a sequel.

Lastly, I should mention the music. It’s good and used well. It will get stuck in your head after you’re done playing too. There’s a handful of tracks (usually about 3) that will randomly play for each theme of track. Some of them I really like and there’s none that are particularly bad, but I could certainly see myself muting the music and putting on my own if I were ever to get real serious about getting high scores.

In conclusion, FutureGrind is fantastic and you should pick it up.

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