When a company develops a sequel to a much-loved game, where should their focus lie? Should they think primarily about improving the gameplay experience of the first title, ensuring that this new endeavour is the most polished and well-rounded version of the game they can create? Should they innovate and create new experiences, knowing they might alienate some fans of the first game but hoping to offset that with new arrivals? Is the answer somewhere in the middle?
It’s a question we find ourselves pondering as we approach Short Ride, which comes to us from prolific studio Gametornado. You’ve probably played a few of Gametornado’s previous works, especially if you’re an avid mobile gamer: this is the company that developed the Rex games (Rio Rex, Mexico Rex, et cetera), as well as Truck Mania and Rescuenator. If that’s enough to sell you, you can now visit Poki and play Short Ride game there and we recommend you do so before you read on.
Perhaps most crucially to this review, though, Gametornado is also responsible for Short Life, a game in which players must lead their hapless protagonist through courses replete with death traps and other methods of torture in order to collect stars and reach the end of each stage. Short Life was, in short, an absolute blast, so we’re excited by the prospect of a sequel. Can Short Ride live up to the pedigree of its predecessor?
Those of you who loved Short Life, as we did, will be pleased to learn that this new game doesn’t change too much of the beloved formula. Short Ride doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does add it – two, in fact; the new game sees players mounting a bike rather than simply trying to muddle through stages on their ridiculously unrealistic limbs. As such, it takes on qualities more akin to games like Happy Wheels or the Trials series than to its predecessor.
With that said, most of the gameplay mechanics are still the same. If you haven’t played Short Life, here’s a quick primer. Short Ride is a physics-based bicycle platformer which sees players riding from the start of each course to the finish. Along the way, there are three collectible stars, and amassing enough stars will allow players to unlock new riders. Between you and victory stands a series of death traps, vertiginous drops and everyday objects designed to impede your progress.
That’s a rather dry way of describing it, because a huge amount of Short Ride’s appeal lies in its presentation. The visual style of this game is simultaneously slightly unsettling and hilarious; the way in which gore flies everywhere when a particularly nasty trap interfaces itself with your rider’s unfortunate body shouldn’t be as funny as it is, but we found ourselves giggling under our hands each time it happened. The audio here isn’t anything particularly special, but it’s not about the music. The graphics do an excellent job of keeping proceedings just on the right side of violent.
That’s a good thing, too, because the other thing about Short Life we loved is its difficulty, and that also makes it across to Short Ride intact. Short Life was a difficult game not because of arbitrary restrictions on the player’s control method or artificial difficulty spikes, but because the game was an expertly crafted experience with a well-developed central gameplay loop. The same can be said of Short Ride; each obstacle becomes a barrier unto itself, teaching the player the controls and aesthetic of the game without being too obtrusive.
There’s a certain joy in managing to overcome a stage in Short Ride, and an even bigger thrill to be had the first time you beat a stage without dying once. Mastery of Short Ride’s mechanics feels great, not least because this doesn’t feel like a game that’s making it easy for you to win. The controls are simple – up and down arrow keys accelerate and brake, while left and right control the tilt of your bike – but the game doesn’t pull its punches, instead using its geometry to make simple obstacles into potential life-and-death situations.
Of course, a huge amount of the hilarity and fun to be had in Short Ride is in death. When players fall afoul of a trap in this game, that doesn’t necessarily mean immediate termination. Instead, it’s possible to muddle through with one leg, no legs and even no limbs if you manage to crawl yourself over the finish line vaguely intact. You can still crawl back onto your bike with one leg, but if you don’t have any limbs left you’ll find it difficult to finish stages. This added layer of challenge simultaneously complements the game’s mechanics, allows players to add their own challenge to the game and – most importantly – is downright hilarious.
All in all, Short Ride is a game well worth experiencing, especially if you’re a fan of Short Life. Despite the game’s title, it’s not a short ride at all – there’s a wealth of content on display here, as well as a level editor which allows players to share their sadistic creations with one another. Short Ride is an enjoyably brutal platformer, a surprisingly accomplished physics title, and a great laugh into the bargain.