BAFL: Brakes Are For Losers Review

There you are, driving your trusty little motor wagon along a nice sunny beach, when some idiot soars right in front of you. You don't brake, though; you can't. Even your accelerator is stuck to the floor. So, instead you continue forward, picking up speed, steering desperately to avoid disaster. Ideally, this is all because you're actually just playing BAFL - Brakes Are For Losers, a bite-sized top-down racer by developer Oudidon. And while it's been out for close to a year on PC, it's arrived on Nintendo Switch for an appealing 5 buckaroos. Keep that price point in mind, though. BAFL is fun, but comes with a few issues. 

In what is probably a nod to the likes of Diddy Kong Racing, BAFL puts you in an arena as the main menu, selecting modes by driving to their respective outlets. There are a few to choose from, but they all operate under the same basic mechanics. Facing seven other racers, you drive around one of several themed tracks and try to rack up as many laps as possible. Pit stops provide repairs and refill your mini boosts, adding an extra layer of strategy as you reflexively weigh the benefits of a three-second stop. Typically, each race becomes a chaotic jumble of cars bumping into everything as they vie for the gold. Great fun, but we’ve arrived at our first issue: it’s too difficult to keep track of your car. This overall problem becomes less pronounced as you play, but even in multiplayer, you’re given no ongoing indication of which car is yours. With their varying shapes and colors, cars look quite distinct, but on the Switch’s six-inch screen, it's still not quite enough. 

For those of you who aren’t interested in playing with pals, every mode can be played alone. In this aspect, Championship will first catch your eye with its selection of purchasable upgrades (traction, speed, armor, that kind of thing) and increasingly complex tracks across three difficulty settings. What I found most addicting and replay-friendly were the time trials, as most tracks’ laps clock in at ten seconds or less. As you complete the three tiers of each track, you earn flags, which accumulate to allow progression to the next bunch of tracks. Add in ghost racers from previous runs, and you’ll find yourself obsessively trying to meet that time requirement you missed by .213 seconds. I’m still dipping back in and trying to accomplish things I’m not sure I can.

BAFL presents itself with varying degrees of inspiration. What you’ll first notice is that it’s not a looker. Things look acceptable during the racing action, but on the frequent pre- and post-race moments where the camera zooms in, things are embarrassingly blurry. Tracks also have an unfortunate tendency to reuse the same asphalt, resulting in a sameness to the proceedings. The synthesized rock and drum sets provide a pleasant auditory backdrop, but sound effects are fairly subdued. At least your poor performances are met with a hilarious library of scattered coughs, golf claps, and sheep noises. 

As you’d expect, BAFL lends itself nicely to multiplayer sessions. We can attribute this primarily to Custom mode, which allows you to run a typical championship cup with or without bots, and to control the number of bots onscreen. This alleviates the car identification issue somewhat, which Player Two certainly appreciated in my case. Unique to Custom mode is the Last Car Standing stipulation, which turns every race into a brisk demolition derby. It would be better if there were more options on top of these, with “number of laps” being a blatant omission, but nonetheless, it provides enough content. Finally, in the absence of online, the game allows for up to eight players to link their joy-cons, effectively meaning that three other Switch owners can detach their joy-cons and link to your game.

BAFL is flawed, strangely in ways that could’ve been easily patched up. What’s there at its foundation is strong, though, with a good palette of gameplay choices. You'll be done with your hour-or-more sessions in an afternoon, but it's priced with this in mind. Beyond that, the time trials give it what I’m going to call intermittent longevity; it’s the type of game that sits on your menu, playable in less than a minute, just begging you to improve upon your last score. Some additional options and visual tweaks would’ve served it immensely, but all the same, BAFL is worth a look.