App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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Imagine signing up for a scientific research study only to learn it involves driving a car blindfolded against the flow of traffic. This is the setup for Blind Drive, a kooky and campy game where players must rely on their ears to keep themselves safely cruising along while learning more about what this "study" is actually about. It's a novel idea, but one that wears thin quickly, thanks in no small part to some frustrating audio design and gimmicky gameplay.
Get me outta this thing!
Blind Drive opens right before the scientific study begins. Hapless protagonist Donnie (who you end up controlling) has already hopped into a car, donned a blindfold, and handcuffed himself to a steering wheel, as per the study instructions. Then, a phone call comes in, and you discover quickly that this isn't just a simple science experiment so much as it is a twisted death game where you need to steer your way to survival.
Against Donnie's will, the car starts to move, and it's up to you to steer left or right to avoid hitting vehicles. The only thing is, you play Blind Drive from Donnie's perspective, meaning you can't see the road or anything on it. There is a HUD that sits on top of Donnie's blacked-out viewport, but the only way you can steer effectively is by turning up your volume and listening.
The "driving" in Blind Drive isn't particularly complicated. It's more like a runner or rhythm game than it is a driving simulator. Donnie stays on-track automatically and all you have to do is steer in reaction to audio that is coming through your device speakers or headphones. Most of the time, this involves tapping the opposite side of the screen when you hear a vehicle coming from certain direction, but there comes certain times across Blind Drive's story where you are asked to steer into certain things, follow driving instructions, etc.
Given this simple gameplay, Blind Drive truly is a game you can play without looking at the screen. The HUD in the game can be useful, but is by no means necessary. Even the on-screen life meter plays audio cues so you know when your actions affect it. The only exception to this is the ability to keep track of your high score or know when you've hit a checkpoint, though that kind of information isn't entirely necessary for engaging with the core of the game.
Basing a game entirely around audio is a neat concept, but Blind Drive seems to hit every speed bump possible when trying to make its blind romp work as intended. The first and most obvious issue with this design surrounds the audio itself. There are times where some obstacles are oddly muffled or seem to provide inconsistent windows of time for reaction. This problem get worse if you're playing with Bluetooth headphones. I played the first half of Blind Drive with my wireless earbuds since the game encouraged me to use headphones, and even with the Bluetooth delay turned all the way up and the difficulty all the way down, felt like I had practically zero time to react to anything.
I ended up finishing Blind Drive without headphones and managing much better, though that introduces the possibility of background noise disrupting your ability to hear what's happening. Even in silence and with no audio delays, though, Blind Drive doesn't quite come together. The preposterous story strings together some gimmicks that try to keep its gameplay fresh, but the whole thing ultimately boils down to a game of Simon Says, and my only satisfaction in completing sections of the game came from hitting checkpoints that assured me I wouldn't have to replay them.
The bottom line
Everything Blind Drive sets out to do on paper sounds great. Ironically, everything about its visual design also really sells the game as a slick and accessible arcade game. Unfortunately though, there are too many issues with the game's audio that either feel technically problematic or simply like the wrong way to circumvent a design limitation. As a result, the whole thing doesn't come together in a way that feels satisfying.