FutureGrind revs up with a colorful twist on arcade racing

Calling FutureGrind a riff on the Trials series isn’t wrong, but it also doesn’t do justice to how absurdly good the upcoming indie game is. The core concept is the same, yes: you’re riding a bike through punishing 2.5D race tracks. But where Trials is all mechanical, feathering the throttle and controlling balance, FutureGrind adds a new color-matching mechanic that’s downright diabolical.

Your appropriately futuristic bike is a tall, rotating vehicle with two different colored lights at each end. The track sections are painted with those same colors. Any time your bike touches the track, the colors have to match, or you fail the level. And you will fail. You’ll fail a whole lot. But just like Trials before it, FutureGrind creates that compulsion to try just one more time. Victory always feels like it was is a fraction of a rotation away and surely this time you’ll land that spin. It’s the hallmark of the best arcade games, and FutureGrind has it in spades.

I’ve been following this project over the course of several trade shows, and watching its progress is a real testament to the grind of independent game development. There are only two people making FutureGrind – Owen Goss and Matt Rix – and each time I’ve seen it, the updates they’ve made are small but palpable. The art is striking and stylish. The interfaces have been finessed and refined. The amount of care and painstaking detail that goes into the creation of each seemingly simple element is evident. Seeing the game’s journey toward completion and chatting with the creators is the closest behind-the-scenes look I’ve ever gotten at game development, and it has made me all the more excited to see the final results.

The build on display at PlayStation Experience showcased a new bike. Instead of the symmetrical pink and blue model, this one had a large wheel for green tracks and a much smaller one for orange. It was a simple tweak that added to the already high challenge level, with the changed center of gravity presenting a new way to fight physics. Goss said that the final game would have five different bike models, although they’re still testing out which concepts will offer the best combination of difficulty and fun.

Attaining mastery of the bike is one thing; even after several play sessions, I still feel like finishing a level is a huge accomplishment. But even if you have madder skills than I, Goss and Rix have plenty more in store. First there’s the trek to ever-higher scores based on tricks and how hard a path you chart through each track. Second, the game will present skill challenges for the levels you finish, so replayability won’t be a concern.

As you might expect of a game with just two developers, progress has been gradual, but the pair is hoping to release the game next year. All I know is that I can’t wait to get my hands on FutureGrind whenever it’s done. If you’re into slick, seriously fun arcade games too, then this is one to look out for.