A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Distance is a futuristic racing game available for download on Windows-, Macintosh-, and Linux-based computers, with virtual reality support for both HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Players race through a series of sci-fi tracks littered with a variety of different hazards that can destroy their car. There's quite a bit more of a learning curve than in most racing games, as players teleport, fly, and defy gravity using multiple different abilities. There's also a level editor included that allows players to build their own custom tracks and share them with others online. While there's no dialogue in the game itself, multiplayer support could open up players to offensive language from other live players via chat.
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What's it about?
DISTANCE is an arcade-style race for survival, filled with bright neon colors, twisting roads, and deadly hazards. It's bad enough when the highways and byways are filled with speed bumps or potholes, but those pale in comparison to the dangers drivers face in this futuristic world. Giant buzz saws and laser grids litter the track, threatening to slice and dice cars into smoldering scrapheaps. Strange anomalies in space-time have created pockets of zero gravity and portals that warp drivers every which way. To survive, you'll need to learn to use the track to your advantage, driving up walls and on ceilings, and even taking flight to avoid imminent destruction. And once you've mastered the tracks, you can build and share your own twisted creations with the game's powerful level editor. You can test your skills in solo play, challenge your friends in local split-screen for up to four players, or prove you're the best in online multiplayer races for up to 12 players.
Is it any good?
This fast-paced racer will test your racing skills, but the VR functionality may test your resistance to nausea. Distance takes the feeling of playing with toy cars when you were a kid and wraps it up in a techno-fueled, neon-colored, futuristic sci-fi package. Things start off like a standard racer, but the learning curve quickly takes a steep climb as your car's abilities come into play. Before long, you find yourself needing to combine jumps with side thrusters to flip the car and make right angle leaps from the road to the wall. Or maybe skip past a turn by opening up your car's wings to take flight and drive over or even under the track to shave off a few seconds. All of that's even before the various hazards (lasers, buzz saws, warp portals, etc.) come into play. It's a complex combination of controls to learn, but once you do, gliding through the chaos becomes a gorgeous automotive ballet.
The single-player Adventure mode is pretty short, but it's basically an extended tutorial. Like many racing games, the real fun comes in racing with others. It's a lot of fun to come up with unique ways to use your car's abilities to slip past the competition. Another great feature is the built-in level editor. Although it's a bit more complicated, it immediately brings to mind the days of laying out plastic Hot Wheels tracks in insane patterns to see just how far you could push those toy cars. And once you have a track you're proud of, you can share it online with the Distance community while checking out some of the new tracks crafted by others. While it features VR support for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, this is a double-edged sword. You'll be mesmerized by the game's environments, but playing in first-person mode can quickly become a dizzying and almost nauseating experience, due to all the twists, turns, and flashing lights whizzing by. It's great in short bursts if you can take it, but definitely something that shouldn't be used for extended periods of time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about creative construction. What is the appeal of being able to create personalized content for games? Can using tools like level editors encourage more creative development outside of the game and in the real word?
What are the benefits of having support for online multiplayer in games? What are some ways that players, particularly younger players, can protect themselves from toxic or predatory strangers in an online environment?
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