RPM: Gymkhana never manages to drift into the fun lane

RPM: Gymkhana is the worst kind of racing game. It promises high-octane action, white-knuckle drifting, and crazy amounts of fun. It turns out that these are not promises, they’re lies. Instead, this is one of those games where the needle on the quality gauge never gets out of the “mediocre” zone.

The game is a third-person driving title, focused around the concept of Gymkhana racing. If you haven’t heard of this particular motor sport, don’t worry. Just go watch The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and you’ll have a decent idea about how it works. There are a lot of claustrophobic courses where complex drifting stunts are the way to get through quickly. You’d think that a game incorporating drifting mechanics would be a blast, but RPM: Gymkhana‘s never gets there thanks to a number of different issues.

The first problem with the game is that the controls don’t feel natural. There are two sets of arrows, one set on each side of the screen. The arrows on the left side control your steering, while those on the right handle acceleration and reverse. These just don’t feel like a natural way drive a car, especially one that’s drifting all over the place.

When a game is all about drift-racing, you’d think the drifting would actually be fun. The cars handle like warm butter, sliding everywhere except where they actually need to go. Driving never really becomes easier, either, no matter how much time you spend with the game.

Finally the various challenges that pepper each track are just flat-out irritating. As you maneuver through the narrow twists and sharp turns, a number of side challenges are present on each map. This can range from speeding through a narrow “alley” —a narrow section of road adjacent to the main track— spinning across a puddle of paint in order to throw it up on the nearby wall, or knocking over port-o-potties (in order to “surprise” the occupants within, hur hur hur). There are even a couple of spots where painted areas (denoting something to do) show up, but it’s not at all obvious what you’re supposed to do and the game doesn’t tell you.

There are a number of cities for you to drive through, but it’s not like you’ll really notice. As you race through each enclosed track, the cities only show up in the background as flat set pieces that do little to actually make the levels feel even remotely different.

 Gymkhana Racing

 Gymkhana Racing

The 3D graphics are somewhat underwhelming, too. Everything’s brightly colored, but there’s very little detail here to appreciate. The vehicles themselves are particularly disappointing, looking like Matchbox toy cars, but with fuzzy logos and fairly flat textures. There’s just no “wow” factor here, everything starts to look flat and dull pretty quick.

In order to be great, racing games need to be fast-paced, have solid controls, and be fun. RPM: Gymkhana hits none of these marks. It’s clunky and frustrating and —worst of all— not all that enjoyable to play. You’re better off passing this one by and leaving it behind.