A lot of people are going to absolutely adore Nail’d, and this is primarily because its spiritual home is on the inside a grubby, fag-ash tarnished arcade cabinet. It is a truly, thoroughly, overbearingly old-school proposition. Because of this, it’s also a title that may intimidate younger gamers who aren’t accustomed to its haphazard and occasionally logic-free racing; and may upset hardcore genre aficionados who view incessant realism as the most important aspect of every racing game’s core recipe. But Nail’d isn’t some flat and empty ploy to sway the affections of the terminally nostalgic. It’s just an extremely entertaining videogame.
But be warned; you’re about as likely to encounter realism in Nail’d as you are likely to hear a burst of licensed classical music. Many people will be able to make their minds up about the game in mere seconds, as before you even get a glimpse of a menu, you’re thrown headfirst into a tutorial; and you’re introduced to the absolutely marvellous control scheme. As with everything else in Nail’d however, it definitely isn’t for everyone because of just how ludicrously responsive it is. You’ll rarely need to use any button aside from accelerate and boost, and if you want to perform a hard 180 degree turn, all you’ll have to do is pull hard in one direction on the thumbstick.
The tracks begin rather conservatively, with the first two featuring the standard roster of high jumps and long drops, as well as stray aircraft wreckage and wind-powered mills. After those two tracks have passed you by though, you’re treated to a level in which you drive sideways along a gigantic dam, all the while avoiding massive bursts of water that send you halfway into outer space if you drive over them. Whenever you’re thrown off course by things like this the effect is almost always amusing, and because Nail’d features an instant restart system, they’re never allowed to genuinely irritate.
Each track features multiple routes, although none of them can really be classed as shortcuts as such. Taking another path is just a good way of avoiding getting kicked off your vehicle by other players; something that is triggered by proximity and doesn’t even require the touch of a button. Boost is earned either by passing through random pairs of flaming poles, or by executing perfect landings – something that the extremely forgiving control scheme turns into an outright breeze. Unlocking levels earns you more customisation options for your vehicle, and using MX vehicles instead of ATVs doesn’t make a whole lot of difference; bar giving you the occasional opportunity to get your front tyre wedged between two pieces of scenery.
The learning curve is terrific too, with the first five (or so) levels all allowing you to cross the finish line in first place with consummate ease, giving you ample time to get your head around how everything works. After that, things get steadily tougher, but if you’re too hardcore for those early tiers you can simply alter the difficulty settings in the main menu. Although there are a few different modes that pop up during your career – including one that grants you an infinite amount of boost, and another that rewards you for your performances in mid-air – they’re mildly entertaining side-steps rather than distinctive parts of the entire package.
So Nail’d is simple, it’s garish, and it’s a rollocking good ride. The only buttons that you have at your disposal during gameplay are accelerate, brake, boost and a command to switch music tracks. Everything about it is very admirably back-to-basics, and the overall lack of frills (the menu system is a stationary wireframe grid) only add to the charm of it. On the surface it isn’t the most unique game in history – its direct forebears unquestionably include Black Rock’s Pure and Rainbow’s very underrated MX Vs ATV Reflex – but in the end, its looks are rather deceptive. Nail’d is a no-nonsense throwback, and is resoundingly enjoyable.
Watch the Nail’d trailer here: