It's rare that a racing game will fully command my attention, but Distance was difficult to ignore in the PAX Indie Megabooth.
The game stood out to me while watching people play from a distance as it reminded me of my time with games like Extreme-G and F-Zero on the Nintendo 64. I may not do well with racing simulators like Forza or Gran Turismo, but I've always enjoyed super high-speed racing with far too many neon lights in the future. – if that can be considered its own genre. Jumping into the game, however, revealed that Distance sets itself apart from all racers with a number of innovative mechanics.
Born from a DigiPen student project, Distance is the spiritual successor to a title called Nitronic Rush. The opening of the PAX demo showed a car with a computer display waking up from some kind of ambiguous computer shutdown.
As the game showed me the ropes, I was surprised to learn there was a jump button. From a distance I saw the futuristic cars sprout wings and fly through the air, but the ability to jump still took me by surprise. As I was racing along the track, obstacles would appear that required a well-timed jump. It was like someone had placed some platforming elements into a racing game and I immediately began experimenting and enjoying it as I sped along.
As I raced, I kept expecting to have to cross a finish line and start a new lap, but I never did. The game has something akin to campaign levels as the track shifts and throws obstacles along the road. I found myself dodging saw blades, lasers that would cut my cay car to pieces, and traveling through portals which took me to unfamiliar areas. A terrifying black hole even appeared a few times, lifting me off the track, sucking me in, and spitting me out.
It was as though the track was doing everything in its power to prevent me from making it to my destination in a very intense way. I spoke a member of the team, and though he wouldn't detail the game's story, he hinted that I was certainly on the right path.
Developer Refract Studios had a racing simulator setup, complete with a joystick to handle flying when the car sprouted wings.
While the game does fall into the racing genre, it expands beyond that with its jumping and flying mechanics and its level structure. Racing games have tracks, but Distance has levels. There will be traditional racing online and splitscreen multiplayer along with other non-traditional modes like a soccer and tag mode.
Right now, Distance is planned for release on PC.