The tangled result of taking Tetris and Trackmania Turbo and tossing them into a tumble dryer, Can’t Drive This is a clever and compulsive co-op puzzle racer. With one player literally building a road out of random tiles as the other navigates the chaotic, impromptu track that results, Can’t Drive This is one of the most inventive driving games I’ve played in recent years, although its modest selection of modes makes it a multiplayer experience best enjoyed in short bursts rather than an all-night party classic-in-the-making.
Replace Tetris’ iconic tetronimoes with assorted chunks of stunt racing track and you’re most of the way to understanding how Can’t Drive This delivers its own brand of puzzle-like track pieces. Every new slab will be something random – one might be a simple square of asphalt while the next has a devilish swinging hammer designed to hamper your progress. However, some may not be square at all – they’ll be 90-degree bends or banked corners that need to be rotated before they’re placed – and others won’t even be asphalt – they’ll be a deep mud pit to mess with your grip or a giant yellow dome to throw you off-course. The variety of tiles and obstacles is decent, although the hydraulic press is a nightmare. While it appears as if you just need to skirt around it, as it slams down it seems to send out a powerful shockwave that knocks trucks from the track without touching them. It was funny at first to watch my teammates struggle to survive it, but ultimately it became regularly irritating.
If You Build It, They’ll Have Fun
Assembling the track in Can’t Drive This is ultimately like trying to piece together a slot car set on the dining table before your little sister drives your favourite car off the end of it. There’s really no time to think it through. The driver can’t simply park and wait for their partner to carefully or artfully string a track together because if the truck stops too long it’ll explode, so reacting to the pieces as they arrive and plonking them down quickly is the only way to succeed as a team.
There are certainly times where it feels like you’re getting shafted with combinations of tiles that are extremely difficult for a driver to deal with – like a series of boost pads into a jump that a driver may find themselves committed to before the builder has even had time to set down a landing area – but with a couch full of players laughing at this predicament it’s generally more funny than aggravating.
However, there were a lot of occasions where I or one of my teammates found ourselves stuck clipping through a guardrail or bogged in a track tile that blinked into existence a fraction too late to let us continue, but a fraction too soon to allow the truck to actually plummet from the sky. It’s an annoying purgatory to be trapped in, particularly when the truck refuses to explode and manually restarting your run from the pause menu is the only solution. This is at its most frustrating with three drivers. Fallen trucks can be resurrected if another player drives through the beacon marking the point on track they perished, but we had a couple of instances where our last surviving driver was fused halfway inside a track tile, unable to revive teammates or proceed.
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Monster Truck Madness
The monster trucks in Can’t Drive This may look toy-like in scale but they handle with a good sense of heft and inertia. The trucks have a decent feeling of mass without being cumbersome, and they’re responsive without feeling overly twitchy or sticky.
There’s also a huge amount of truck customisation on offer but I haven’t really found myself drawn to it. A monster truck with a beard and a cowboy hat is objectively brilliant, I admit, but I can’t help but wonder if Can’t Drive This would’ve been better served with a few more modes or ways to play it than such an extensive range of cosmetics.
As it stands, there are three different multiplayer modes: Yardage, where up to three drivers and one builder attempt to simply go the furthest distance they can before all trucks either careen off the track or explode; Game of Drones, where two drivers and two builders partner up to collect an increasing number of floating cubes randomly scattered around an initial hub zone; and Capture the Egg, where two teams – each featuring a driver and a builder – square off in a capture the flag scenario.
The frantic and unforgiving Yardage feels like the core Can’t Drive This experience, but I think I actually prefer Game of Drones; tracking down all the cubes requires building in all four compass directions rather than relentlessly trying to power forwards, and there’s slightly more time to rebuild around errors – you just need to avoid the EMP mines dropped by the drone that will disable trucks and potentially send them spearing off the track or into an obstacle to become stuck and blow up.
That’s it, though, and once we’d dabbled in each mode for a while sessions of Can’t Drive This would begin to lose a bit of momentum. There’s a fourth mode purely for solo players where you need to both build the road and drive it yourself as it subsequently assembles in front of you, but if this is the only way you’d be planning to play Can’t Drive This I’d recommend against picking it up. Lone Racer really loses a lot of steam after a dozen or so attempts.