Game Review: Speed Limit

I do love me some indie games. I often find they are more creative and interesting than your average AAA title that gets released. A small team of dedicated developers seem to push original ideas more and further than those big name studios who, more often than not, fart out endless sequels of tired old franchises. Which all brings me to the latest indie game to be discovered. Speed Limit from developers Gamechuck and published by Chorus Worldwide.

Now, from the title alone, I’d be expecting some kind of arcade OutRun style driving game. But what Speed Limit actually is, is so much more. I’m not even sure which genre to define the game as. Is it a driving game? Yeah, kind of, there certainly is some driving in the game… But it’s also an action-shooter, a platformer, a genre bending and blending title that melds various game genres into one. This is how developer Gamechuck describe the game on their site:

Speed Limit is a super-fast-paced tour through a variety of retro action genres, set to beautifully animated pixel art. The difficulty curve ramps up to breakneck levels while you run and gun in a side-scrolling shooter, weave through traffic in a faux-3D bike racer, dodge incoming missiles in an isometric shoot ’em up, and more!”

First, the story. Well, I’m not a really sure there is one to be honest. The game just starts with your character on a train and some ‘random’ guy handing you a gun. Then you are hunted down by men in black types. From that point on, Speed Limit is a non-stop action romp until the end credits.

I guess I should explain how Speed Limit actually works as a game. Split into five different gameplay styles, each style has its own level and each level features an increasingly faster form of transport. So, you start off on a train and this level is a side-scrolling shooter/slight platform game. You have to make your way from the back of the speeding train, to the front while being chased by enemies. Armed with a simple pistol, you can shoot the bad guys, jump and duck obstacles and shoot even more bad guys. Get to the front of the train and you move onto the next level and gameplay style.

SPEED LIMIT TRAIN

Next, you find yourself in a red sports car and the action shifts from a side-scroller shooter to a top-down driving game. The bad guys are now in cars, trucks and on bikes as you speed along a multi-lane freeway with oncoming traffic and roadworks to dodge. Thankfully, you are still armed with your gun, so you can take out the enemies with relative ease by shooting them… Or ram them into oncoming traffic and such. Get to the end of this one and an enemy bike rides up next to you. That’s your cue to jump from the car to the bike and start the next level.

SPEED LIMIT CAR

Now on a more powerful motorbike, the game changes once more to a third person, pseudo-3D perspective. Tearing along the road, there’s more traffic to dodge and more bad guys to shoot, all while being chased by a juggernaut of a truck ready to run you down. Here, not only do have to contend with the usual obstacles and bad guys, but if you go too slow, then that massive truck will catch and plough over you. You have to maintain a decent speed while still dealing with everything else thrown at you. Survive this and there’s an attack helicopter at the end wanting to take you out. Use specially placed jumps to leap into the air on your bike and take out the pilot. When that’s dealt with, you do one final jump and leap from your bike into the pilot seat of the attack helicopter.

SPEED LIMIT BIKE

So we’re now on level four and the action shifts once more. You’re now in an isometric shooter flying over water. The helicopter is armed with a machine gun you use to take our ground targets as well as missiles you shoot at air targets, like other helicopters and fighter jets. Throughout the level, aside from the enemies (that attack from both in front and behind) there’s a steady flow of obstacles to fly around and under. Rocks, lighthouses and bridges have to be avoided along with taking out bad guys. Get to the end of this level and you face a red fighter jet, only you don’t shoot this one down. Oh no, you shoot yourself on a missile (stay with me) toward the jet, to take over as the pilot.

SPEED LIMIT HELI

And then you’re on the fifth and final level of the game. Now in a red fighter jet, the game becomes what could be described as a reverse Tempest crossed with After Burner. You fly into the screen with other planes trying to shoot you down following behind. Here, you need to deftly use the speed to slow down and get behind the jets giving chase. Once on their six, you can shoot them down pretty easily. Take out all the other planes and it’s on to the final boss. A stealth bomber with multiple individual areas that need to be destroyed before you can finally blow it out of the sky. A very tough challenge right at the end of the game.

SPEED LIMIT JET

So there you have it, that is how Speed Limit works and plays. Five distinct and different levels (each level split into two stages, ten stages in total… With an extra stage when playing on the harder difficulty) of intense, non-stop action and varying gameplay genres. The way the game transitions from level to level is seamless. The action never stops, there are no breaks (except for the few seconds as the game shifts between levels). It’s all out action form start to end and Speed Limit hardly gives you a chance to breath. This is old school arcade action in its purest form, just given a unique and modern twist. As you can see from the trailer and pics here, Speed Limit also uses a pixel art style for its graphics. They look great, beautifully animated and full of little details. It really is a great looking game and does the pixel art style proud.

Right from the off, Speed Limit is hard. You will die… A lot, even on easy mode. This really is a game of trial and error, you have to pay attention and learn each level, each gameplay style as each level changes genres. That difficulty only gets increasingly harder as you progress too. Yet, the difficulty curve of Speed Limit is absolutely perfect though. It throws you in at the deep end as soon as you start and you’d better learn fast if you want to see the end credits. Each death you suffer, you learn something new, where a enemy will spawn from and when. When to jump, duck or dodge at the absolute pixel perfect moment and more. Speed Limit really took me back to gaming in the arcades in the eighties. Really tough games that were designed to swallow your coins as fast as possible. Thankfully, Speed Limit doesn’t require you to throw fistfuls of coins in order to play. The difficulty here, while rock hard from the very first second of gameplay, is still extremely well balanced and each level features a generous amount of checkpoints that make the huge amount of deaths you will most definitely incur a lot more reasonable. Die, try again and die again. But you’ll still make steady progress despite the game’s rock hard difficulty.

SPEED LIMIT AGENT

Now, while I thoroughly enjoyed playing Speed Limit… There is a negative. It’s just too damn short. I mean, I received my review code on Friday the 22nd of January and the embargo for reviews, etc was up today on the 8th of February. So that’s a little over two weeks. My first playthrough, I finished the game in a little over forty minutes on easy setting. My second lasted just under forty minutes on normal when I understood the game more (side note: finishing the game on normal does answer the a rather big question asked at the start). A little over an hour and I had seen the whole game, I really didn’t need that two weeks. Now to be fair, there is an unlockable infinite mode where you just keep playing the game on a loop and you can unlock a time attack mode too. But the thing is, you are still just replaying those same five levels over and over. There’s very little more to the game than those five levels, as great as they are and as much fun as I had with Speed Limit, there’s just not a huge amount of game here. You unlock some art when finishing each level on normal difficulty… And that’s about it. Now of course, Speed Limit is trying to emulate old school arcade gaming of the past, and it does precisely that, really damn well too. But gamers just expect a bit more game for their money these days. Speaking of money, Speed Limit has a price tag of £7.99/$9.99/€9.99 and that makes this one of the hardest and most frustrating reviews I’ve ever had to do. That’s a great price point for sure, a low budget cost which certainly takes out some of the sting over Speed Limit’s lack of content. Plus as I said, the gameplay is really bloody great… But personally,  it still feels just a bit too pricey for what the game offers. I do love this game, but it really does need more meat on the bones.

I guess value for money in this one really boils down to the kind of gamer you are. I think speed runners will get a real kick out of this one. Each level is timed and so is your overall play from start to end. I can see speed runners really enjoying this and pushing themselves to beat their best times. But for me, I’m just not a speed runner gamer, so that aspect just doesn’t appeal to me. I finished the game on easy and normal difficulty settings in a little over an hour, and that’s about it really and I don’t think the infinite loop and time trial modes really add anything of value. I can’t honestly say if I’m sure I’d come back to Speed Limit now I’ve finished it. I’ve had the game for over two weeks and just not felt the pull to play it again since finishing both difficulty settings in just over an hour and dabbling with the infinite mode. In fact, it’s taken me longer to write, format and edit this review than play through Speed Limit… Twice.

So, the big question. Is Speed Limit worth buying? This is a lot harder to answer than it seems. Look, I love this game for what it is. The gameplay is amazing, the mixing of genres is brilliantly done, the difficulty is hard but very fair. The game really captures so much of what I love about old school gaming. All in all, Speed Limit is a wonderfully created title that really took me back to my childhood, and I have to thank Gamechuck for that. But I just can’t dismiss how short it is, I mean, there’s an achievement/trophy for finishing the game in under thirty minutes. Yet its got a reasonable price point that I can’t ignore. Still, I feel I do need to get across that as great as Speed Limit is, it is a very, very short-lived experience. How much mileage you’ll personally get out of the game really boils down to the type of gamer you are. If you’re someone who’s obsessed with beating your old times, if you’re a speed runner, then I think you’ll get a lot more out of this than I did. But for me, this was very much a one and done experience. I loved every second of it too… But there isn’t enough game here to me to really get my teeth into and I’m not feeling that Speed Limit is doing much to pull me back in now I have finished it.

I do think people should buy it. The team at Gamechuck really are onto something here. I’d love to see them expand and build on this concept. Maybe a sequel, maybe an all new game with similar ideas and themes. Buying Speed Limit is a sure-fire way to show support to the devs and get them working on more titles. So yeah, definitely give it a go (try the demo first), but I guess you need to decide if the price tag is worth the amount of game you get. I recommend the game, but with the caveat that it’s is a short lived experience.

Speed Limit is coming to PS4 on 15/2, PS5 on 16/2, Steam on 17/02, Nintendo Switch on 18/02, and finally seeing an Xbox One & Xbox Series X/S release on 19/02.

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