We’re not short of kart racers these days. From revivals such as Crash Team Racing, to a modern effort like Team Sonic Racing, players have access to some cracking examples of the genre. Sadly, Bears Can’t Drift!? Won’t be joining this category. With almost no redeeming qualities, I’d steer clear of this one.
Things start off confusingly and it only goes downhill from there. We’re dropped in front of a title card with no explanation that this is, in fact, the menu system. Pulling the trigger sees our kart hurtle off past the writing, but it’s not clear where we’re to go, or why. Restarting the game, I took it a little slower – hard to do, as even a slight squeeze of the trigger sends us charging away – and found the 3 difficulties to the left, right and centre. Driving through each one didn’t seem to make a blind bit of difference, though with almost zero feedback it could have had some effect I was unaware of.
Down the end of the road we reach a terminal that has three big doorways representing the three worlds the stages take place in. To be fair to BCD!? there are blue tool tip icons dotted around, but again, the dodgy handling makes it hard to get anywhere close with ease. Clearing the stages in the opening forest area unlocks the arctic one, which in turn unlocks the ruins area. Actually finding said stages is a convoluted mess though; each area is a mini hub world that we must drive around to find the gates to the track. There are handy beacons showing the way, but much like the rest of the ‘UI’ it feels like an absolute waste of time and something a simple menu system would have been better suited to. Things aren’t helped by the fact that there’s no information abut the tracks outside of a three star rating at the gate, which I presume to be clearing it on each difficulty. A quick race option is available in the lobby, allowing us to set up a five race match, though again there are icons and modes that are represented with an icon, yet no actual explanation of what each mean. Tips appear on the loading screens, but the game loads so fast it’s almost impossible to read a full one in time. This whole process can be done with four players too; if it’s hard enough to figure out what’s going on solo, with three other karts flying around it’s nigh on incomprehensible.
The problems continue once we get into a race. Immediately it’s clear that the camera position is far too low for the large characters in play. We have the smallest amount of camera control, but it’s no where near enough to actually be able to, you know, see where we’re going. The twitchy karts slide about as it is; crashing into an unseen obstacle just compounds the issue. One of the game modes, called Picnic, tasks us with collecting a certain amount of food before our rivals. Each new bit of food causes our racer to grow bigger still, taking up more of the screen and making it all but unplayable.
And woe betide us if we want to use one of the several weapons. Represented as big headed animals, these are no fun to use, and worse, actively make the racing harder. Take the chameleon for example; it offers up a spinning shield around our racer (at least, I assume it’s a shield). Problem is, it makes the already limited field of view distort to the point where I can’t honestly believe someone thought it was fine as is. Rockets are fired from a massive cannon that takes up just as much of the screen as the karts, while the boost feels weak and ineffective. There is a neat idea in here; by collecting 2 of the same type before firing, an alternate fire mode is granted. Once again though, I have practically no idea what each did as there’s zero explanation and it’s hard to tell in the thick of a race.
A lack of fanfare makes completing laps almost unnoticeable, assuming you can even finish one. The tracks often loop around on themselves, but following the correct route feels as much luck as judgement at times. The karts handle erratically, though a power slide does help navigate tighter corners. Short cuts are present, but the ones I found usually ended up being more effort than they were worth – one early track sees the exit direct us straight into the trunk of a tree, putting us further back than we started. Odd glitches mean the karts get stuck on slightly curved surfaces, or bounce in uncontrollable ways after a slight jump. Tracks are often crammed full of incidental detail too, but this just leads to things looking even more confusing as the track get hidden behind a plethora of bushes, flowers, rocks and more.
I feel like I’m being a little unfair; BCD?! Is clearly a budget title from a small team, something evidenced by the credits appearing on the walls of the hub area. For what it’s worth, I quite like the art style, and the music recalls the classic Diddy Kong Racing at times; all chirpy, bouncy race tunes. But even so, it simply isn’t any fun to play. The terrible camera angle is the biggest bugbear – just raising it up a tad would improve things no end. Even then, the erratic handling, lack of feedback or information and general blandness to proceedings would still be in place. A shame, but when there’s so many other great racers out there, I can’t find any reason to recommend checking this out.