Krautscape is a strange slice of racing. There’s nothing traditional about its gameplay, save for having vehicles and a track on which they compete. It’s the shifting roads that change per the leading driver’s direction, the flight ability that allows for soaring across the playing field, and the strategic approach you’ll find yourself balancing with the driving mechanics that set Krautscape apart from the genre norms. Even visually, with it’s cardboard-painting aesthetics, Krautscape stands out from the assortment of kart-racers on the market — but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s begin at the beginning. The track, which is wildly reminiscent of Mario Kart’s rainbow road, is comprised of multiple stripes. It’s not possible to simply memorize every nagging turn or tricky corner, however, as each stripe represents a different direction for the road to take. Progressing along the raceway reveals building gates, and passing through one will generate a chunk of road depending on your placement on the track. The sharpest turns, for example, are located at the very edge of each side, while the middle stripe will simply tack-on a straight piece of raceway.
Since the track is essentially based on your direction — assuming you’re in the lead — it’s entirely possibly to construct a complicated mess. This, of course, is by no means a bad thing. Using the many twists to your advantage is encouraged in Krautscape, and you can do so by flying across chunks of the tracks stripy death, and landing conveniently alongside the leading driver, or simply extending the gap between yourself and the other racers. Likewise, it’s just as easy to become distracted by the various procedurally generated turns, and find yourself struggling to gather enough steam to make it across the field, further setting yourself behind by falling into the great abyss beneath the raceway.
In addition to manipulable paths, there are plenty of speed traps littered across the track. In my experience, they’ve all consisted of various walls that halt any racer too slow to dodge them — such as myself — as well as gates which increase your speed as you rush through them. These little tricks smother Krautscape in yet another layer of strategy, as flying becomes a crucial aspect of the game. Indeed, taking to the sky is slower than sliding between obstacles — and players — but it’s key in surviving.
There are three game modes available in Krautscape, though my hands-on time included only two. Collector, which has drivers seeking and flying through item gates in order to amass points, and Ping Pong, which seemed to be the more traditional mode, having racers compete on an ever-growing track. Snake is another mode, but time was running short and we weren’t able to test it out.
Krautscape is one of the most artistically gorgeous — if not the absolute most — racing games, and it’s uniqueness lends well to its perfect blend of tricky maneuvering and strategic gameplay. There’s promise in its execution, which is already a bundle of fun, and we can’t wait to see where it goes once it hits Early Access next month. Currently, the game is a multiplayer experience only — that’s perfectly fine, however. I was told that were plans of a possible single player mode, but that’s hardly a game changer.
There’s a strong competitive nature to its diabolical track mechanics, and while our Executive Editor Adam Beck made a fool of me during our demo, it was thoroughly enjoyable to bump-paint in the occasion I was able to reach his increasingly distant position — a shining example of multiplayer done right. Krautscape manages to inject creativity into a genre of racers too caught up in the smokey clouds of nostalgia. While many details remain unknown, such as the exact number of drivers that are able to compete on a single track, Krautscape is shaping up to be something quite special. Most importantly, though, Krautscape is brimming with potential to become an even greater experience, and we’re very much looking forward to our 2nd, 3rd, and 50th run.