(This review covers the PC version of Blind Drive, available on Steam.)
Minimalist Graphics Meets Masterful Sound Design
Have you ever wondered what a radio play would be like if it was a video game? Wonder no longer. Blind Drive is here, and it’s a master-class in audio design.
The premise is this: You play as Donnie, a down-on-his-luck twenty-something strapped for cash and taking part in a “research trial.” Said research trial involves driving down the highway with no brakes, blindfolded, and handcuffed to the wheel, while a deep-voiced madman taunts him on the phone.
Along the way, you’ll encounter a secret desert base full of ice-cream-pushing gangsters, a small suburban town in the midst of an alien invasion, and a naval research base full of experimental torpedo-wielding dolphins. And I’m only making one of those things up. The action starts tame. But it quickly spirals into absurdity, and the voice acting pulls it together for a great comedic experience. Donnie’s voice actor sells him as the exasperated straight-man, constantly baffled every time the situation escalates. The voice actress for his Grandma also does a fantastic job as a stubborn, doddering Yiddish grandmother, chastising him for always getting into trouble.
The game has minimal graphics; the only things that appear on the screen are a basic UI and a few effects, none of which are necessary to play the game. The Steam listing also boasts screen reader reader support, so things like score can be read out for visually impaired players. The UI that’s available is fairly well implemented, however. The steering indicator feels responsive and the animations look nice and fit the aesthetic. Overall, it’s well put together.
The audio is where the game really shines. A good pair of headphones are required because you’ll have to listen for audio cues coming from the left or right, and steer accordingly. At first, it’s fairly straightforward, listening for oncoming cars and steering out of the way. But eventually, the game will start throwing power ups at you, like cyclists to run over for extra points, along with other hazards, such as rain that makes it harder to hear the traffic, and a sadistic GPS giving you electric shocks when you don’t follow her directions.
All the audio cues in the game are distinct and clear, painting a vivid mental picture of the scene. Everything is detailed, from the wind rushing by outside, to the people shouting at you from the road, even down to the clinking of Donnie’s handcuffs on the steering wheel when you make a turn. It really does immerse you in the game, despite the lack of visuals.
The game itself is fairly challenging. I recommend first time players, especially those with some hearing loss, to play through on easy, at least for the first play through. I mostly got stuck on the boss fights (yes, there are boss fights) where windows to react to hazards become very slim, and dodging becomes difficult. I also noticed times when what counted as a miss or hit seemed a little arbitrary. But that could have just been my terrible reflexes.
All in all, Blind Drive is well-made, innovative, and all around good fun. It’s very enjoyable, and at the very low price of $10 US, I’d say it was definitely worth the cost of admission. You won’t find many games quite like it.
Alyssa Katze is a fiction author and journalist, born and raised in Seattle, WA. Their hobbies include eating, sleeping, and getting tilted at MOBAs.