Thanks to Insane Code for the 3DS review code
Title: 80’s OVERDRIVE
System: 3DS (eShop)
Price: $4.99 (3DS)
Release Date: 12/07/2018 (3DS)
Well, here it is, mere days from the shutdown of the 3DS eShop, and I got my final game in the queue to tackle. Unfortunately. I don’t have much excuse at all for my delay in covering this, and while Block Paradise I could maybe chalk up due to the impending state of our world plus my rollercoaster of 2019, 80’s Overdrive hit the 3DS at the tail end of 2018, before the big mess that slowed my writing muscles! I think what got me to reach out was the retro visuals, and well, as you’ll soon see, they definitely do the job. But one thing led to another, my first impressions weren’t great, but not lengthy enough to be worth writing a knee-jerk reaction, and I figured I’d head back in to give it another shot in due time.
Well, that took a whopping, inexcusable 4+ years on my end, but I still keep my word when it comes to getting review copies and pledging to review them: likewise I bought this one on Steam to support the developer to compare with this 3DS original and make up slightly for the absurd wait, but I really don’t have any excuse. All I hope for is that now, we can see together if this out-run inspired racer is worth that last bit of 3DS cash for the 3D effect, or if you should throw a few bucks and nab a newer version on Steam and other modern platforms. Still, I’m gonna mostly focus on the 3DS version in this review, since that’s what I was given and that’s the one I spent the most time in.
Immediately from the onset, 80’s Overdrive brings strong feelings of the Outrun titles, with a behind the car perspective as you race around a variety of courses, and the eShop screenshots do look really good! The bottom screen is used for score and other misc info, while the top is dedicated to the racing action.
The biggest benefit to the 3DS version, and arguably the last one it has over modern ports, is the 3D effect, and while it may not be as impressive as Sega’s Outrun 3D Classics port, the effect is pretty great, especially considering how rarely used it was at the time of this game’s release. Really the only negative to this game, both in this 3DS original and more modern versions comes from the UI outside of the races, which has a clunky, mobile-esque interface that feels OK enough on a handheld like the 3DS, but was redone for the modern ports and doesn’t look nearly as good. On the bright side, the pixel art is outstanding whichever way you decide to play, with modern versions having excellent pixel scaling and smooth performance while the 3DS original has less detail and an inconsistent framerate, but not one that ends up being terrible.
The music is alright, with both versions having a variety of tracks to pick, with the ninth track being my usual go-to. Still, most of these tracks hardly are memorable at all and none really compare to the sort of music from the Outrun games, but in the modern ports you can toggle between songs on the fly with shoulder buttons, which is handy. (3DS just lets you do that via the touch screen)
There are three main modes in 80’s Overdrive regardless of platform, and for the 3DS version, they’re all rather decent. First is the career mode, where you buy a car, enter in races for prize money and spend it on repairs, upgrades, and newer cars to progress throughout the many stages. These start off fairly simple with little hazards or traffic, but later levels can throw a lot of obstacles and rival racers on the track, making going for first place a lot trickier. Also trust me when I say that you need to buy that nitro ASAP if you want any hope of winning these races, since this 3DS version is surprisingly difficult, but in a good old-school way.
The good news is if you do run out of money and can’t enter a race like I did, you can get the entry fee for the first race by doing a car cleaning minigame on the touchscreen, but on the other hand it does mean you’re locked into that initial race until you win it again for more money to enter the other levels. Thankfully, the modern ports rebalanced this mode and made it a lot easier starting out, with more prize money given to boot. Still, I enjoyed the control of the game on both systems, as it is a fairly simple accelerate, brake, and nitro boost control scheme, with the option to manually shift gears if you wanna go that route. Still, even with a higher difficulty, this mode was decent fun on 3DS.
However, the big highlight for me, and really for anyone wanting this to be more Outrun-like comes from the Time Attack mode, where you start an endurance round of trying to reach the next checkpoint before time runs out, going on split paths to new areas as you travel on a very, very big map. The time limit, especially in this version is incredibly tight, but if you manage to barely graze a passing car, you will gain a few seconds onto the timer, and that’s where the addictive hook comes into play; it certainly didn’t work the first time I tried this game years ago, but here in 2023, it finally clicked for me, and the intense time crunch can really make this mode a lot of fun!
You gain score the further you travel, so beating your own spot on the local leaderboards and seeing which route you can reach next makes for a fun enough pick up and play experience. However, the difficulty is pretty harsh, especially for those not familiar with arcade racers, and it seems the steam version rebalanced things a little to make it a lot less strict starting out, as I was able to survive a whopping seven minutes straight on that version, while on 3DS I only barely made it past the first checkpoint. Still, this mode is the highlight of the game on any platform, and definitely where I had the most run, and I have to admit the 3DS’s extra challenge made me a lot more engaged than on Steam, even though both are pretty damn tough if you want to actually reach the end of a run. (which is a long, long task)
Last but not least is the level editor mode, which… I couldn’t get into. The 3DS version has a few decent options, but nothing really appealed to me and the courses I tried messing with here I couldn’t get nearly as fun as the provided tracks. The Steam version allows for entering a password to play other stages though, so platforms like that are likely where you’ll get new levels to enjoy more than this 3DS version, which I couldn’t find any online features for when I poked around.
This ended up being a long, long delayed review for a variety of reasons: slow interest in the 3DS platform, the events of 2019 that shook my world around, and the demotivation in 2020 that slowed my productivity as a whole, and 2021/22’s rollercoaster of a busy year that just led to me being too unbothered to even open a clamshell to focus my attention span, which is really stupid of me considering the type of simple, fun game this is.
Yet, now that I’ve finally given 80’s Overdrive the time it deserves, it may be too soon, since the 3DS eShop is right about to close for good. Luckily, other ports exist, and as I noted it seems these newer ports managed to fix some of the complaints I had with the 3DS particular version of the game, but since this was the version I was given for review, and I stick by my guns to review everything I accept eventually…
80’s Overdrive on 3DS is a pretty decent racer, with only the 3D effect really going for it as the huge reason to play it on the 3DS over any other console. But on other platforms, it got a little bit of extra polish and rebalacing, and honestly, if you can get past the rough patches and difficulty spikes, this 3DS version is still a worthy 3D showcase before the shutdown in a few days, and is still pretty darn fun to play once you get over those initial hurdles.
Otherwise, you can nab it on Switch, Steam, pretty much anything for a more polished racing experience, especially in time attack mode: for the sake of this review, I’ll score it based off that 3DS original, but just add a mental note of an extra point or so for the Steam version.
Or don’t do that, and focus on the text in the review, since at the end of the day even with the flaws, 80’s Overdrive is a damn charming passion project, so even if it ended up being mostly style and little substance on the 3DS, it definitely made fine use of that 3D effect, and I really did have fun with Time Attack once it finally, finally clicked.
I give 80’s Overdrive (3DS) a 6 out of 10.