Monday, July 15, 2024

Buck Up and Drive makes arcade racing queer

Buck Up and Drive came to my attention through a Twitter thread that highlighted how certain, homophobic players were getting their knickers in a twist. The reason? Because Buck Up and Drive included queer players through the addition of rainbow and trans billboards.

After reading more about the LGBTQ+ toggle included, and how it’s an effective and hilarious bit of trolling, it felt right to give the game a go myself. And, well, Buck Up and Drive is wonderfully creative.

The concept of Buck Up and Drive is a complex one to explain for me, as I’m not usually interested in arcade racing games at all, but what I do know is to describe this game just as ‘another arcade racer’ would be a disservice. Instead Buck Up and Drive is a wacky, joyful combination of OutRun and Street Fighter, coming with two modes to best represent the two games.

The first mode is Endless Road, a mode that does exactly what it says on the tin – placing players on an endless track with 18 different environments and stages for you to unlock. Players can play in these different stages until time runs out, really making the mode live up to its name. The next mode, which I’ve lovingly titled the ‘Car Fighter’ mode, is Shifty Gear. This pits players (or a player and an NPC) against one another to do battle – car style! You can swerve into your opponent, jump up and smack them from above, or rear-end them from behind. There’s a lot of different combinations, and I took a lot of glee smashing my Ferrero into my opponent’s.

Despite only having two modes, developer Fábio Fontes has added quite a few things that lengthen the time you spend with the game. For one thing, you’re able to customize and unlock different cars throughout, with 8 different vehicles on offer. Secondly, you can create your own customization by using decals that can be edited via Photoshop and other editing studios, and last but not least, there are numerous mechanics, twists, and secrets to be found in Endless Road.

On my first couple of playthroughs of Endless Road, I took it easy. I knew I could pull of combinations once I was up in the air: spinning, turning, and twerking my way to success each time I took flight… But I did not know that I could grind on the rails and flip back to another rail on the left until my third run, and holy crap did that change everything! I was eager to be in the air solely so I could hop to and fro between railings, grinding my way to victory like a Tony Hawk Transformer. The best thing about it though? I did it all with one hand thanks to the controls. King sh*t, if you ask me.

Buck Up and Drive queer
BURN! is what we say to transphobes, baby

But what really gets me excited about this game is how it effectively queerifies arcade racing by transforming it into something else – something peculiar, something queer. Instead of a simple racing game where points are the endgame, Buck Up and Drive drives home how queer it is in a lot of different ways.

Firstly, it goes against the ‘standard’ car racing game by bringing in brutal car-on-car combat, a different genre entirely that others Buck Up and Drive from a lot of other arcade racers out there, all while adding something new and creative for players to get stuck into. Next is the queer advocacy (as small as it is) through billboard advertisements, something which is included in the game, regardless of whether you use the LGBTQ+ toggle that’s in the game’s options. It’s a harmless addition and, ultimately, doesn’t add anything to gameplay, but when did you last see an arcade racer with a trans flag smacked big on a billboard that had nothing to do with mods? Right.

Last but not least, the customization in Buck Up and Drive is surprisingly thorough, giving players the chance to present themselves the way they want through editable decals via external images. Freedom of expression to be who you are is vital to queer players, and it’s nice to see it in this game. Live your best gay, car life.

There are a few issues, such as a few stutters and the controls during Shifty Gear felt a tad janky when trying to perform more complex moves, but overall I greatly enjoyed my time with Buck Up and Drive thanks to Fontes innovative ideas, beautiful artwork and an unwillingness to compromise with homophobes. What’s not to love about that?

Score: 4/5

A copy of Buck Up and Drive for PC was provided to Gayming Magazine by the developer

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