A review copy of the game was provided to Real Game Media, courtesy of the developers
When a game describes itself as the ultimate top-down racing game with a strong retro feeling and super smooth gameplay (according to the official page on the PlayStation Store), you set your expectations high. After all, it does say “ultimate” right? I was curious to try out a review copy of this indie game from Iceflake Studios. The amount of content in the game is surprisingly large for a small studio. Unfortunately, for me, it is missing one of the key components: fun.
There are multiple modes in which you can choose to race: career, single races and time trial. There are 100 tracks present in the game. To have access to all of them though, you need to complete the career mode.
This mode consists of choosing one type of vehicle and winning races. There are 3 types of cups you can compete in. Each of them has the standard three difficulty selections: Easy, Medium, and Difficult with each having 5, 10 and 15 tracks respectively. The better you place after each cup, the more you can earn money, which will allow you to unlock new types of vehicles. There is only one type of vehicle per cup.
The single race mode allows you to choose an unlocked vehicle, any track, and race. You will earn cash depending on your results also here.
The time trial is an infinite mode in which you choose an unlocked vehicle, any track, and drive as fast as possible to beat your own time. There are no opponents except for your ghost car which appears after you complete the first lap.
There are 6 different types of vehicles that you can choose from. You have your standard racing game types: Rally car, Formula-1 car, Motorbike, Sports Car, then you have tractors and UFOs! Each drives very differently and have different specifications for engines, tires, torque and handling.
Driving, the old school way
The driving mechanics should be familiar to anyone that grew up playing R.C. Pro-Am on the NES or Super Off Road on SNES. There is an accelerate button, a brake button and a respawn button (allowing to go back on the road when you really are way off road). To steer, simply use the left and right arrows. Steering might take a little getting used to for newcomers to the top-down realm, but it is not difficult to understand.
My gripes with what’s offered
There are 2 major complaints that really killed the fun I had with the game:
- The AI. The game is supposed to be a throwback to arcade racing fun. The AI of the opponents is just plain over aggressive and doesn’t allow any kind of errors. I lost count of how many times I finished last because I was unable to catch up to any cars ahead of me. When you start a race in the last position, it’s almost impossible to advance, because the AI cars will simply form a line, blocking any passing attempts.
- Vehicle responsiveness. When you create an arcade racing game, handling and acceleration should not be uncontrollable. During my first race, my rally car was floating around, going offroad, etc. just by pressing the gas just a little bit. With this game, you really have to watch your acceleration and brake coming into the turns. This is normal for most racing games, however, handling is unforgiving which makes driving more work than fun for this type of game.
The presentation of the game captures the old-school retro feeling with the flashy pastel colours and the top-down toy car perspective. Among the huge number of races, there is a lot of variety in the environments, going from rally tracks, to forests, to snowy and beach environments. There was a lot of work put into the level design which is to be commended.
However, I cannot give as many compliments about the soundtrack and sound design. It is very minimal and feels…absent. The music during the races is forgettable and the sound effects are passable at best, nothing extraordinary. Even the sound of cars smashing into each other feels dull, which is not what you’d expect for metal on metal clashing. It’s disappointing to see so much work go into level design yet fall short on sound effects.
Additionally, the level editor found on the PC version is missing from the PS4 version.
The multiplayer aspect of the game could have saved the day. While there is the presence of a local multiplayer mode with up to 6 players, online multiplayer is completely missing. Additionally, it looks like only the PC version has the ability to race against different vehicles in one race.
If someone can live with the negative aspects of the game, there is a lot of content, which can be replayed for a long time. The couch multiplayer mode is fun for gaming nights with friends and if you’re that kind of someone who is a trophies/achievements hunter, it demands a lot of you to compete in each race, with each vehicle, which can take some time to achieve. The replay value of this game is high – granted you don’t throw and break a controller playing it.