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Rhythm-Based Driving Games are Innovative and Awesome

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A PlayStation Dualshock 4 controller, which you can use to play more than a few Rhythm games.
Photo: pxfuel via DMCA

If you grew up during the back half of the 1990s or the mid-2000s — or have kids who did — odds are you’re aware of rhythm games. On the off-chance that you’re not, they’re interactive experiences that ask you to perform specific actions that match up with on-screen cues, often set to music. Think Dance Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero. As it turns out, the rhythm game genre pairs perfectly with driving games.

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What are rhythm games?

Many rhythm games adopt a common format — a set of lanes that stretch forward into the distance. As the player, your job is to switch lanes at the appropriate time to land on a trigger in tempo with the background music. In the case of popular games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band — which, in retrospect, is a pretty lazy name — the lanes are physically represented on the plastic guitar you use as a controller. If you see a green icon on the far-left track, you press green when the note gets close enough. Is an orange bar approaching on the far right? Hit that orange button in time with the song.

Why rhythm games work with cars

Hey, you’re a smart person. After all, you’re taking the time to actually read written words. So I don’t think I need to explain the relevance of the term “lane,” which is something you should be familiar with if you’ve ever been in a vehicle. That being the case, it makes perfect sense to design a rhythm game around cars that need to slide from left to right along preordained tracks. Plus, since a lot of drivers — myself included — love to listen to music on the road, there’s a level of synchronicity at play that just works.

Proof that rhythm work with cars

Don’t just take my word for it — there are a lot of rhythm games out there that came up with this idea long before I did. One prominent example is appropriately entitled Music Racer, which generates stages based on the music being played. That idea was popularized by properties like Audiosurf and Audiosurf 2, which doesn’t technically feature a car but does allow you to import your own tunes to create bespoke levels. A game called Riff Racer—which does feature cars—adopts a similar format.

At this point, I feel like it’s incumbent upon me to say that swapping lanes like Crash Bandicoot with a vendetta is tremendously dangerous and profoundly unsafe. If you’re going to sync up your driving to music, it’s best to stick to a digital car.

Keep on rolling: On a fresh set of tires