PC Review: Zero Gear
I’ve been a fan of light-hearted racing games since the days of Mario Kart on the Nintendo 64, so the upcoming racer Zero Gear had been on my radar for a while. Indeed, on the face of it, you’d be forgiven for thinking Zero Gear is nothing but an updated version of Mario Kart or Donkey Kong. The lovable characters are there, the brightly coloured race tracks, the random pick-ups, all featured first in Mario Kart. So is Zero Gear at all different?
Well, yes. In fact, the developers behind Zero Gear have taken steps to expand and improve on every aspect that was so recognisable from Mario Kart, and it really shines through even after just a few games. First off, there’s the character creation. While Mario Kart thrived on having familiar faces to choose from, Zero Gear is a new IP and therefore doesn’t have that luxury. As a result, it provides the player with a fairly simplistic, but satisfying, set of tools to create their own racer. There’s the option to choose what kind of kart and wheels you want to use, what type of racer you want sitting in it, then a host of accessories to make sure your racer feels like your own. It’s not deep or revolutionary, but it gets the job done. In any case, the real focus is on the racing.
There’s only one real way to describe the racing in Zero Gear, and that is by pointing at every other racer in the genre and pushing them all together. While it does bear the strongest likeness to Mario Kart, it has elements of Crash Nitro Kart in there as well, so that it has enough variation that it doesn’t feel like a direct rip-off. The racing mechanics essentially consist of accelerating, steering, braking, jumping, boosting and using whatever power-up you have at the time. The power-ups seem to vary more than in Mario Kart, but their end result is much the same – they either slow the opponent down or speed you up to varying degrees.
The biggest addition for this game, in terms of what the genre normally offers, is the inclusion of a number of other game modes other than straight racing. There’s ‘Tag’, which is essentially the same as Timesplitter’s Bag Tag or any number of variants in other games. ‘Target’ mode asks the players to attempt to jump through the air and hit the target of the most value, while ‘Goal’ mode is essentially down-sized football with two teams trying to score in the other team’s goal. All these modes seem polished and well-balanced, but for me it’s going to be the racing that keeps me playing.
On the technical side, Zero Gear does a good job of making the game scalable to most computers nowadays, while maintaining graphical flair and smooth performance in the game. The inclusion of options such as an ‘Indie-ness’ metre, which purposefully pixelates the game, show a certain amount of messing around on the developer’s end which is lacking in many games nowadays. From playing Zero Gear, you really get the feeling that the developers had a decent time making the game too.
For those of you who remember the glory days of Mario Kart, this will be a welcome return to those fondly-remembered times. Zero Gear is very much its own game, however, and it adds and improves on everything possible to provide the player with a fun, replayable game that sadly lacks a little in depth.
Zero Gear is available on Steam now.