Stay Safe is a crazily fast 3D futuristic racing game for PC by new French developer Atomic Raccoon. Touting themselves as being “half human and half raccoon” they are pleased to “make pretty hard games based on anarchy and chaos.” In terms of hardness, how tricky can a racing game really be? especially when you compare it to today’s offerings such as WipeOut where scraping a wall merely leaves you with a slight deceleration to your ship. Well in the words of Rocket Raccoon, “This is frickin’ ridiculous!”
It has been along time since I have played a game so menacing, so frustrating, so ARRRRGGHHHHH!! yet it makes me want to hit that restart key and try the level over and over again. Stay Safe, yeah you just try and do that, is a series of short timed levels where the goal is to start and finish in one piece. Controls are simply left and right along with a boost button to go insanely fast. There is the ability to quickly spin to the left and right to avoid oncoming obstacles and finally should you hit a ramp you can pull back and take that glide for as far as you dare.
The bendy and curvy racetracks test your boosting skills as hurtling too close to the sides of the track results in either dropping to your death or blowing up should you touch the electrified fence. Strategically placed giant blocks force you to carefully pick your route on the track and a series of obstacles forces you to effectively River Dance your fingers on the X & C keys as you flick left and right hoping that you don’t clip anything that lies in your path.
A handy death counter in the top left of the screen gently reminds you of how many attempts you have so far made on the level and also add to your frustrations as it sits there, seemingly gloating at you and shaming you.
Upon death, the Retry button adds a “Re” for the first 3 times until it basically gives up on you and the skull symbol just cries each time the figure increases. To try and perk you up there are many inspirational quotes, many of which by the legend that was Bruce Lee, an example of which is shown above. Get used to reading them, they help mop up those tears that will flow when you explode once more at the same point on the track for the 31st time.
With 75 hardcore tracks to test your patience and then conquer, each level adds something new to the mix. In the early days you have uninterrupted tracks with minimal things to avoid however this false sense of security is quickly taken away ramps appear that force you to fly across desserts and wastelands to the next piece of track. This is before the spinning blades and robots begin to litter your path. All in all there are 3 worlds to visit and attempt to set that new track time. On completion of each track you are judged on an A to F scale along with your numbered ranking in the global leaderboard and the next level unlocks.
There is a green capsule dotted around on levels, usually in perilous locations. To be fair, I tried and tried to grab one but where they are located just resulted in me exploding into lots of tiny pieces. If you manage to collect them all you unlock the extra 15 levels that brings the total playable tracks from 60 to 75.
Despite the frustrations, the super fine responsive controls and fast restarts keep you hooked along with your determination to feel that fulfilment of actually finishing the track, even if it was your 63rd attempt.
With an 80’s Tron type feel to the colour scheme used, the neon pink and cyan of the titles brightens your screen like a Wham music video. Gameplay is slick and of a crisp quality, ultimately no lag when running the tracks and when death occurs, only you can be blamed for your fat fingered bad timing. Visually Stay Safe doesn’t push the boundaries but for an indie game what it does it does very well.
Stay Safe features a rhythmic cacophony of electro music and sound effects brought to you by French based Colorswap Studios. The atmospheric music lends itself well to the futuristic 3D setting and it will be one of the few things over than the inspirational quotes to try and put a smile on your face and keep you calm.
Stay Safe is certain to bring out your inner tourette’s by level 2 easily as you find yourself repeatedly hitting the restart key until it is mashed into your keyboard/controller as the death counter rises faster than a toupee in a tornado. That said I could not tear myself away from it. It is quite usual for me to get easily agitated when playing new games if I rapidly die over and over again, however something in me kept wanting to play until I made each level my bitch. With the times I achieved, dignity went out of the window, I just wanted to feel the success of finishing the level. Stay Safe has some kind of hold on me that made me relive my youth where games didn’t feature check points or ways of continuing where you left off. Here when you die it is game over and back to the beginning of that particular level.
With more than 20 different types of trap to come up against, 75 tracks to rip your hair out to, global leaderboards to feel depressed over, speed running has never been so fun. Seriously it is intense. Learning from your mistakes only to make a new one 1 metre on from your previous place of death just drives you to hang in there and crack it.
Being a beta that I played, yes there were a few glitches such as running off the track and sometimes not exploding however as you have the ability to hit the R key and restart whenever you want it was really no biggie and no doubt will be patched very soon.
Thanks Atomic Raccoon for this mentally infuriating offering, if my French is any good from my old school days “Stay Safe C’est Formidable!”
I award Stay Safe the Thumb Culture Gold trophy.
Disclaimer: A review code was received in order to write this article. I may have also broken my R key as I now have to press it quite hard for it to work!