Despite The Name, The Game Is Anything But 'Defunct'
Defunct is more of an outlier when it comes to this week's Steam Racing Fest coverage as it's not a "racer" in a traditional sense. Then again, what is a racer? If it's controlling a vehicle with wheels and the object is to race against time, rivals, or another concept relative to time, is it a racing game? Then, does it have to have wheels? There are racing titles that are anti-gravity, water-based, and even taking to the skies. When you start thinking and rambling about the characteristics of a racing game, you come to the conclusion that Defunct is a racer.
The game begins with the protagonist, a robot attached to a single wheel and engine, that finds itself with a broken 'defunct' engine. Unfortunately, while in the process of repairing its engine, it finds itself in a garbage chute, ejected from the ship it was on. Now, the robot must find its way back while going through several landscapes and meeting allies who will help it on its journey in the process. The ship acts as the game's tutorial level, introducing many techniques that will make or break the player's journey.
Defunct Is A Motorcross Fan's Paradise
After the preamble I made about Defunct being a racing game, it may seem strange that I suddenly brought up Motorcross, but hear me out. The robot cannot move on its own, at least, not at a speed faster than a snail's pace. Fortunately, the robot is equipped with a Gravitize engine that gains power as the player moves down sloped surfaces. This is the main method to getting around as chaining downhill slopes and taking advantage of physics is the key to speed. This is similar to how "pumping" works in Motorcross when handling bumps and hills in racing. See, Defunct is a racer!
However, going uphill will dramatically limit the player's speed, halting their momentum. This is where the emergency engine comes in as it will maintain enough power to climb up small hills, but anything more than that will cause the engine to sputter. Thankfully, there's an indicator that determines when it's best to activate the Gravitize mechanic. If the player has the green light, it's alright. Red probably means your speed is dead. The robot can also jump across vast gaps, determined by the speed at which the robot is going. In the second half of the game, the player gains access to a boost powerup that gives the player an extreme burst of speed for a short period of time.
The Atmosphere Is Similar To A Certain Disney Robot
I won't sugarcoat it, I've had extreme Wall-E vibes from playing this game, from the protagonists to the few supporting characters that appear. There's no dialogue and every implied dialogue is spoken through body language. The wasteland environment that the player eventually brings it all together. Defunct's story is meant to build a world around the player as they wall ride, jump through hills, and speed through forests, tundras, and many more. It does its job well, to the point where certain story cutscenes begin to make sense as it happens.
There are more than one ways to get from Point A to Point B, leaving players with a sense of choice relative to their skills. Branching paths will involve the player jumping and wall riding over dangerous ravines. The alternative continues toward the regular intended path, yet taking the difficult path rewards the players with collectibles and a sense of fulfillment. Defunct is a game where you can play at your own pace until you reach one of its several "puzzle" areas. There are switches scattered around a small arena and players will need to use everything they've learned to activate them. Once activated, the player continues their journey.
There's One Short Problem, Pun Intended
Defunct's length is on the short side, like, "completed in an hour" short. It's not a negative thing but it's more like watching a movie that you're getting into and then it's over just as it was getting good. Fortunately, there's tons of replayability as players can unlock skins for the robot, play on higher difficulties, and find faster ways to complete the game. There is a dedicated speedrun community for this game and it hits all of the marks for what a "Speedrunning" game is.
Defunct is a short, fast-paced game with intricate techniques needed to complete the game within a short time. The margin of competition is only as big as its optimization and that's what makes a game like Defunct great. The gameplay is easy to grasp but it can feel frustrating when it feels like nothing is working in your favor. As the player grasps more of the game's mechanics the way it's meant to be played, flying and skipping whole sections are some of the most satisfying feelings ever felt in a game.
I'd Buy That For A Dollar
Currently, Defunct is 90% off on Steam for the Racing Fest, meaning that for the price of a can of Arizona Green Tea, you can enjoy a game that offers tons of replayability. For 99 cents, players could do a lot worse and while it's not perfect and often frustrating, it's a fun time at the end of the session. Check it out as it may be the cheapest it's going to be for a while once the sale ends.
Defunct is available on Steam, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.