There isn't a googolplex of collectible vehicles. There are no gear ratios. Realistic physics? Nope. Meticulously recreated real-world racetracks? Not a chance. Instead, there are hot air balloons majestically floating thousands of feet in the air. It's your job to straddle an ATV (or motocross bike if you prefer), get some speed and jump over those balloons. If you're still reading this, there's a good chance you'll enjoy Nail'd.
Ostensibly, Nail'd is an off-road racer, replete with plenty of mud, curves and jumps. In practice though, the jumps steal the show. I'm talking about huge, ridiculous, gigantic jumps. Players spend so much time in the air in Nail'd that it tracks how many miles they've flown. According to my stats page, over a quarter of my time with Nail'd has been spent in the air.

These jumps don't offer serene moments to reflect on life either. Much like life, in fact, they are littered with obstacles. Airplanes, trucks, trees, aqueducts and the aforementioned hot air balloons fill the sky, and all must be avoided using a bit of physically impossible midair steering. The ground is likewise dotted with hazards including boulders, cacti and even more trees.

On top of all this, the track design is closer to roller coaster than reality. In addition to braving thousand-foot drops, I found myself dodging oncoming trains, swinging incredibly tight curves and clinging to completely vertical walls. A wrong turn or missed jump routinely sent my bike careening into an obstacle, launching my avatar from his (now exploding) vehicle. Not to worry though, as I was put right back on the track within a few seconds.

That's essentially the crux of Nail'd: You're always racing. Thanks to the boost system, you're generally racing very fast, too. Players are rewarded with speed-enhancing boost at almost every turn. Apart from racing through boost gates, boost can be earned in myriad ways, including smashing other players, making a perfect landing or, my favorite, crushing another player by landing on top of them. Hell, you can even earn boost by using boost.

This emphasis on speed and big stunts is what makes Nail'd instantly appealing, though this strength throws some of its weaknesses into sharp relief. Crashes, for one, are inconsistent. For instance, it's a little baffling that a collision with a moving train did little more than bump me off course, whereas grazing a hot air balloon sent my bike up in flames. There were other times when I was automatically respawned, even though I landed on a drivable surface and was headed in the right direction. I can only assume I was considered "out of bounds."

The respawn system can be tricky in and of itself too, because it usually respawns players past whatever obstacle caused them to crash. In fact, I've actually been respawned directly into first place a couple of times. In a more technically demanding racer, these might be serious issues, but I was put back in the race so quickly that it rarely became a problem. Also, and this isn't really a technical issue, I hope you enjoy songs like "Go" by Slaves on Dope, because Nail'd has more angry dude music than you can shake an angst-ridden, rage-filled fist at.

There's a lot of potential in Nail'd as a franchise. Personally, I would have liked to see developer Techland take greater advantage of the impossible physics and insane track design. It's just begging for some Burnout-inspired party modes, for example. As it stands, Nail'd is an arcade racer less about perfection and more about the simple joys of going fast and landing big stunts. It's a simple trick, but it's well-executed. Throw in online and system link multiplayer for 12 players (no split-screen, sorry), plenty of unlockables and free DLC, and Nail'd is an attractive budget title.

Sure, it doesn't redefine the genre, but it does add hot air balloons, and that has to count for something.



This review is based on review code of Nail'd provided by Deep Silver. It was played for approximately 10 hours, but not to completion due to technical issues.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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