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Dryft City Kyngs Is A Satirical Acid Trip Of Melbourne Built On Ripping Mad Skids And Giving Everyone A Chance

Tyre smokin’ down the trippy highway and flipping off millionaire tycoons

Welcome to Dryft City!  Where you spend your days at a deadbeat job, overworked and underpaid, and your nights racing the Kyngs of the street. Based on a very near-future Melbourne, Dryft City Kyngs, which released on June 14, 2024, is a racing simulation meets urban cyberpunk RPG all wrapped up in a whacky 2D world.

Meet yourself, a humble office worker with a pre-generated name who was ripping mad skids with your mother in your family backyard from the moment you were born. However, the grind wasn’t kind to your drifting passions, forcing you to give up your ride to make ends meet. Not all is lost, though, because you dream of becoming the Dryft King. And your life-sucking corporate job, nor your penniless pockets, will stop you from reaching it. Can you free Dryft City from the conglomerates lording over it? Can you bring your community together? Can you become the Dryft King?

Get lost in a psychedelic dreamscape

Dryft City Kyngs takes the MS Paint aesthetic and dials it up to absurd levels. The city backdrop is a kaleidoscope of fluorescent block colours and vigorous textures, and the characters, a cast of otherworldly and bizarre bobbleheads, hand-drawn with shaky line art and grotesque caricatures comparable to 90s cartoons. The result is akin to a strange acid trip, where nothing looks quite right, but the longer you stare at it, the less sense it makes.

The purposefully gaudy art direction evokes a sense of discomfort. Not only due to its eye-straining colours and crowded environment but also because of Dryft City itself. You live in a rundown and dirty apartment complex, and upon exiting onto the streets you’re confronted with litter scattered on the streets.

That’s not all, even locations that are supposed to be well-kept and clean can make you uneasy. Your corporate job, for instance, is, on the surface, relaxed and cooperative, however hiding in its warehouse, out of sight, is horrible work conditions for the pick-packers. There are teens cutting class, cults in the high-end of town, a butcher selling suspicious looking meat, gross fast food franchises cooking oily and saturated food, and shady nightclubs running 24/7. There is a wrongness to the City underneath all its flashy bravado.

The future is TECHNOLOGY. Or is it?

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What Dryft City Kyngs conveys through its uncomfortable ambience is a keen understanding of the effects MEGACORP and AI technology have on the middle and lower class. While the City is flourishing with futuristic technology like BDAT (an AI with biometric scanning connecting you to the information superhighway) and Mo (a mushroom-like intelligent user interface), the residents are still impoverished. Your boss pushes for higher profit and workload, while severely under-paying you and mistreating your co-workers. The everyday citizen sees limited improvement in their quality of life, while the higher-ups are raking in more and more cash and spending it on flashier technology.

The result is akin to a strange acid trip, where nothing looks quite right, but the longer you stare at it, the less sense it makes

Satire can and will be used against you

However, despite its dismal conditions, Dryft City’s heart is still beating. Undeterred by the CEO’s syphoning money from its streets, the community comes together under one banner: Dryft Racing. It doesn’t matter who you are or what walk of life you come from, every citizen in Dryft City Kyngs has their foot on the pedal, fanging for first place.

It’s this shared passion for racing that encourages you to get to know even the most off-putting citizens. The more characters you connect with, complete favours for and race against improves your Mad Respect, and you’ll need that if you want to be Dryft City’s Kyng. The distaste you might have towards the shady guy at the corner,  the lazy general store cashier, or disrespectful teens, soon subsides and is replaced with familiarity and kinship.

It is clear the extreme caricatures of Melbourne stereotypes, blunt and confronting in their nature, are being used against you because once you delve deeper into your relationship with other characters, you’ll find your intuition about them wrong from the beginning. Dryft City Kyngs forces players to check their own biases. Don’t judge too soon, because, at the end of the day, they’re another person, just like you.

Don’t forget to Shift Lock Drift

At the core of Dryft City Kyngs, the driving force of the game is its unique racing loop. Everything you do, from your part-time job to climbing social links, is for the sake of your Ryde. You need to earn money to pay for upgrades and complete favours, to win races and climb the Dryft rankings. However, players need to mind their time carefully, because earning money and completing favours can be a time-consuming task.

Sometimes characters are after very specific items, ones you have to check every store in Dryft City to find. And the clock does not stop ticking. Time passes fast, and failing to complete all your tasks means forfeiting payday. Add the time limit and the pinball-esque cityscape (avoiding cars is a bullet hell in itself) together, and you get intense, sometimes frustrating, item-collecting gameplay.

If players manage to survive the gauntlet, then well done! Now, you have one chance per day to win your Dryft Race, and it is no easy task. Your hunk of junk car is slow, and the competitors aren’t messing around, meaning the learning curve is steep. Players can’t rely on speed alone, they have to cut corners, time their turbo boosts, avoid obstacles and maximise drifting time as much as possible. And even then there’s no guarantee you’ll win. Racing is a scrappy, chaotic experience, which is exhilarating most of the time, and exasperating for the rest. If you lose, prepare to play out another whole day of tasks and item collecting before testing your mettle again. And again. And again. The other option is to not suck, which I could not.

If you’re looking for a reality-bending and dark-humoured parody of Melbourne stereotypes, or to do away with conventional living and partake in completely safe, completely legal, street racing, then Dryft City Kyngs, developed and published by Magicdweedoo and Nonsense Machine, should be added to your Steam Wishlist today.

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Previewed on PC // Preview code supplied by publisher

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Written By Chantelle McColl

Chantelle McColl is a writer based in Melbourne, Narrm, who specialises in video games and analysing how they convey memorable narratives and experiences. Dabbling in indie genres like platformers, Metroidvanias and all games story-rich, Chantelle is always on the lookout for the next experimental game. You can find her work on Checkpoint Gaming, Byteside, ScreenHub Australia and on Twitter.

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