Ampersand is a basic combat racing game set on futuristic tracks and that is where any praise for the game will end. I want to play a futuristic racing game, but Ampersand is marred with major issues. The only thing going for the game is the cheap price tag. Some games are worth the risk of a cheap price, but Ampersand should be avoided. Its just a flat racing game that struggles to make it out of the starting line.
The worst sin seems to be that no one knows how to play the game, nor does it tell you that its arrow keys to steer, the X key to accelerate and the Z key to use weapons. Plenty of other keyboard only racing games would let you push up to accelerate or even space. While Z and X do make some sense, the game needs to tell you that. Pressing escape will close the game with no warning.
Beyond the mysterious controls, the game is tough. The default vehicle sways rather than turns once you get any sort of speed, so hitting walls become common. Hitting a wall from any angle is a punishment, because you’ll come to a dead stop. Perhaps a different control option to make sharp turns or brake would be helpful.
Another nice thing would be to have other vehicles at the start so I can say “well if this vehicle is too tough to steer, maybe that vehicle is better.” If there are vehicles to be unlocked, I will never see them, instead I will walk away from the game, never to play it again.
Other than that, you are competing against other vehicles of the same model as yours. While you still can tell your vehicle from others since the camera only follows your vehicle, different colors would have been nice.
The menu is a bit cryptic as well. Its still easy to find your way into a race. I never quite knew how clicking a triangle was going to the next race. Since the game is keyboard only, it would be nice if the menu had keyboard controls as well. Then again some people can chalk it up to “mobile port hastily thrown onto Steam.”
It looks as if there are three campaigns with what I can only guess are five events each. Three events are unlocked from the start, two races and one time trial. To the game’s credit after the first lap of the time trial, you see your ghost.
The next downside is that the game asks for a GameJolt account when you first start up. With this game being sold on Steam, it needs Steam integration rather than GameJolt integration. Steam leader boards, Steam achievements and so on. While its never necessary to have leader boards and achievements, if you’re going to have GameJolt, you should just have Steam on Steam.
When I make the car turn, the heads up display will sway with it, leading me to believe the HUD is fixed to the back of my car rather than the camera. The next issue is that the music can cut out at times or disappear entirely. If the game was fun to begin with, it loses a lot of whatever luster it had when there’s no music. “Tap to continue” appears at the wrong times. It looks as if it should appear when you get destroyed, but it will appear at other random times as well.
With all the problems out of the way, let’s talk about what Ampersand was trying to do. Car combat, well racing with weapons. There are floating icons which seem to give you a random weapon. Good luck swaying your vehicle over to them. The sad part is beyond the first seconds of the race, I never saw the competition again to use it on them.
You have plenty health and your destruction only means you have to respawn making it a forgiving game in one way. Then again, with the competitors so far ahead, its like driving alone. There are only four vehicles on the track including your own, but I always managed to find them again… when they lapped me.
Other than that, there are zippers that will boost your speed. Good luck landing on those too. With the stiff steering, it would be nice if the boosters were larger. At my best, I can still hit all the zippers, yet never catch up to the competition, because from the start, they’re already long gone. The real problem is then you go so fast that you are bound to hit a wall.
I like weapons and boosters in racing games, but the tracks and racing need to accommodate both. Make the tracks wider, add a brake or a sharp turn. It can be improved or fixed, but after the heap of negative reviews, its best to just cut your losses. Be the developer that people say wow you sure got better from game-to-game or just change developer names so the taint of Ampersand gets left behind.
Rather than talk about the graphics, let’s discuss the trailer and the 20 wasted seconds at the start, showing something not even in the game. Its just wasted time. Watching the trailer, I’d just assume its a game about lines in the sky. If you’re going to show something outside of the game, make sure its your logo.
I struggle to use any game as a punching bag like this, but it feels like the developer shoveled out the game without playing it or having friends play it. Can your friends pick up this game and play it easy? The setting sells me on the game and that’s all this game is. There is nothing deeper.
At best this is the prototype of a game and at worst, this is a game that may never overcome the negative aspects and the developer should scrap it and make a new game.