Take a bow Aquiris Game Studio, TAKE A BOW!
It is not often I start a review sharing my innermost thoughts on a game, however Horizon Chase Turbo is a fast-paced, frantic and well-polished arcade racer and I think my review should be the same…
Styled on classic 80s racers such as Out Run, Top Gear and Rush, the premise is a simple one: start at the back of the grid, weave your way through your opponents and be crowned king of the racing world. At this point, I feel it is important to note that with the game being marketed as a racing game inspired by these retro greats, I would most likely have not purchased this game. Born in the 90s myself, I have no emotional attachment to games of this nature and I spent little time in an arcade – I blame my parents! With this in mind, I am in a privileged position to be able to review this game as a modern release, without nostalgia and high expectations clouding my judgement.
What initially hit me when starting the game for the first time was the clarity of the visuals. From the classy menu design to the country selection screen in the ‘World Tour’, I had a feeling I was in for a treat. The phrase ‘style over substance’ comes to mind here, however do not fear! It wasn’t long before I experienced just how much content and creativity is on display here. With 37 cars, designed around current and classic sports cars, countless tracks and a whole host of optional extras, there is so bang for your buck.
Horizon Chase Turbo offers four distinct game modes, each warranting an inclusion. The first, and the only one available upon loading the game for the first time, is the ‘World Tour.’ Aptly named, you travel around the world visiting countries and major cities/states to compete in races. There are 12 places to visit, from Japan to Hawaii, the UAE to Brazil. Each has its own distinct feel and personality, and are presented through two on-screen elements: the track and surrounding area, and the backdrop. As seen in the image below, there is a lot of detail on display and the artistic design is exemplary. The finer details such as smoke billowing out from under the tyres as you screech around a corner are excellent, and is only further enhanced when the terrain changes, as the smoke changes accordingly.
Outside of the ‘World Tour’ there is the self-explanatory ‘Tournament’ and ‘Endurance’ modes, and a very creative and well-designed ‘Playground’ mode. The latter is where I think most players will spend their time once the credits have rolled on the ‘World Tour’, with ‘an ever-changing set of races with all sorts of twists, from time attacks to changes in weather, mirrored tracks and infinite nitros…You never know what’s coming in the next season.’ This is a blast to play and offers infinite replayability, either alone or with friends. It is unlocked by reaching Brazil in the tour, and offers hours and hours of fun.
As well as the striking visuals, the game is enhanced by an excellent soundtrack, produced by none other than Barry Leitch – the musician behind the original songs of Lotus Turbo Challenge, Top Gear and Rush. This serves as yet another example of how much emphasis the development team have placed on recreating the feel of the arcade games of old, and it works exceptionally well. I enjoyed listening to the upbeat, trance tunes as I skillfully weaved my way through the crowds of racers.
My time with Horizon Chase Turbo began by competing in the aforementioned ‘World Tour’, and California was the first stop. Here, there were three different areas: San Francisco, Sequdia National Park and Los Angeles. Each area is comprised of between two and three races, and coins are awarded based upon your successes in each race. For example, 1st place provides 100 coins, 2nd place offers 90 and so on. Additional to this, more coins can be earned by collecting blue chequered flag tokens and finishing the race with fuel left over. The fuel is represented on-screen near the top right hand corner, and is affected by your collisions with the many drivers and obstacles in your path. The incentive to achieve as many coins as possible is ever present as these are tallied and used to unlock new races and cars. As well as the three stages, there are also ‘Upgrade Races’ in each city/state/country. These offer up the opportunity to upgrade each of the cars in your roster by winning the race, and these upgrades can affect all manner of performance aids, from suspension, to nitro and much more.
Demonstrated in the picture above, there is a lot of detail in both the scenery and the presentation of the car itself. Sharing a striking resemblance to that of an Audi R8, this is just another way that Aquiris have planted this game firmly into modern times. I was always excited to unlock the next car and see how well it handled in comparison to the others in my garage.
On the subject of handling, this is where this game shines. Trying to reinvent a retro game of yesteryear, there is always a tendency to either drastically change the handling or keep it as close to the original as possible. There are perks to both, however I feel like a happy medium is best suited to games such as this. Horizon Chase Turbo does not disappoint. I never felt I was playing a carbon copy of those 80s classics, however, I also never felt I was playing something completely removed from them. I particularly liked how the tyres stuck to the track, how the car turned depending upon how hard I wanted it to, and how it responded when both avoiding, and hitting, obstacles. It was exhilarating to move at such high speeds and dodge between racers with carefully timed adjustments to acceleration and steering.
If there wasn’t enough content on offer already, Horizon Chase Turbo makes use of local splitscreen by offering up to four players to partake in races in each of the game modes. For fun-filled evenings with friends, this game comes close to rivalling classic co-op races such as Mario Kart. It doesn’t quite match the personality and customisation that Mario Kart does, but it sure delivers on the fast-paced, competitive and engaging racing that games of this nature should.
For all that Horizon Chase Turbo gets right, there are a few inclusions which I feel do not enhance the racing experience and others I would have liked to have seen. First of all, the fuel meter discussed earlier is, for want of a better word, odd. It is affected by the collisions you have in-game, and too many collisions result in the meter becoming depleted and the car slowing to a stop. This can be combated by collecting fuel cans en route to restore the fuel in the tank, however the game punishes you by slowing you down when you collide with an obstacle anyway, so then providing an additional consequence becomes too much. Also, representing this meter as fuel doesn’t make sense – a damage meter would. The second inclusion which could have been better implemented is the on-screen map, found on the left-hand side of the screen. Due to the speed at which the cars travel, it can be rather difficult to make use of the mini-map. I would have liked to have seen a different approach to make it more useful and intuitive.
With regards to inclusions I would have liked to have seen, I think the option to rewind, found in recent racing titles such as Formula 1, would have been a welcome addition. It would have supported Horizon Chase Turbo in the transition from a retro to a modern race, and it would enable you to have a second attempt at manoeuvring between those last two cars to pull off a fantastic overtake combination.
For me, Horizon Chase Turbo is a beacon for all developers looking to reinvent or recreate the successes of retro titles from years gone by. To best summarise what has been achieved by Aquiris Game Studio, I would refer to Horizon Chase Turbo as a ‘retro reimagination.’ If that phrase hasn’t been used before, I am coining it now! They have managed to blend old with new, classic with modern, and given a fresh identity and new life to a genre lacking in recent years. When people ask why I review games, this will now serve as my game of reference when attempting to explain. Knowing this game would have passed me by without the opportunity to review it, is, quite frankly, a travesty. Equally, it would be, quite frankly, a travesty if this passed you by too…
Beard Score: 9/10
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: Nov 28, 2017
No. of Players: up to 4 players
Category: Arcade, Racing
Developer: Aquiris Game Studio