A Rear View of the Past
When you look at the current landscape of racing games it’s hard to imagine that a genre that has become known for its photorealism and sim like qualities was once little more than a jerky set of box shapes full of constipation noises that somehow still kept gamers hooked and coming back for more, especially in the arcades where strange noises were expected. A common trend for the presentation was the good old birds-eye view or top-down view if you prefer, which was found in retro classics such as Micro Machines, American Speedway, Street Racer and even Combat Cars, anybody remembers that one? with Andrew the Alien who looked like a seasick Bill Nighy? No? I’m getting too old for this…
The point is, with indie gaming bringing us a selection of “blast from the past” experiences, we decided to step into the racing chair or Total Arcade Racing, a top-down arcade racer with a wide selection of game modes and colourful presentation. But does this old school racer sit atop the podium, Champaign in hand or does it blow a gasket and head to the pits? Let’s take a look.
What’s Under the Hood?
As mentioned in the intro, Total Arcade Racing is a throwback experience and provides nostalgia-fueled gameplay across a generous selection of game modes. For those looking to jump in the old fashioned way, there is a championship mode. Race through a series of events and try to win the gold against a host of rivals on a wide variety of tracks. For those seeking bragging rights then step into the time trial and burn rubber until you are king of the tracks and if you don’t have much time to spare then head to arcade mode for some quick race action.
If the traditional options are not your cup of tea then fear not, a range of more hectic modes are readily available from Eliminator, Demolition Derby, Endless, Survivor, Delivery and Car Hockey. Each mode helps to add a nice level of variation and keeps things fresh. The gameplay is smooth though as you can imagine, it takes a bit of getting used to with the top-down perspective, once you get in the swing of things it’s a lot of fun zipping around the tracks that all look to be inspired from a classic playmat that we all enjoyed as kids. There’s a nice selection of cars to unlock. Each has its own stats, although the majority of them did feel pretty samey to drive. That being said, it added a bit of depth to the progression system having new vehicles to unlock and every so often a noticeably better car becomes available.
There’s no I in team
As is tradition with arcade racers, the challenge is not just with opponents but the controls. The AI racers are competent enough to keep things interesting but it’s the steering that you will have to acclimatise yourself with, especially in the early going. Navigating the courses is simple at first with simple circular formations but as the game roll’s on a generous helping of track varients begin to open up with a selection of hazards to contend with, being too overzealous with the left analogue stick will see a Schumacher quality overtake turn into a Tiger Woods quality disaster as you watch the assortment of opponents breeze past with nary a glance in their rearview mirror.
Total Arcade Racer brings a wide selection of goods to its table and quirky steering aside, it is a good throwback to some classics. The problem is that the whole experience feels a bit underwhelming to be enjoyed as a solo outing. Fortunately, there is the option to play with friends with up to eight-player local co-op which makes this one perfect for party gaming if you happen to know that many people with a fondness for retro racers. However, the lack of online support means that getting the most out of this title will be challenging for most – even with the inclusion of online leaderboards.
Despite being a bit lacklustre as a solo experience, Total Arcade Racing performs really well on Nintendo Switch. The bright colours and somewhat cartoonish designs look great on both the small screen and big screen mode with the control layout being basic and user friendly, once you master the steering. Jumping back and forth between game modes is simple with quick load times making it ideal for younger gamers or people with minimal time on their hands.
Total Arcade Racing is a fun little racer packed full of content that near enough achieves what it set out to do. If you have friends to enjoy the local multiplayer element with, you’ll definitely get the most out of it but as a solo outing, it may wear thin fast. At $9.99/£9.99 you may want to wait for a sale before checking this one out.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Nintendo, Xbox
Release Date: 07/05/2021
No. of Players: 1-8
Category: Adventure, Sim, Other
Developer: Pretty Fly Games
Publisher: Casual Games
Download link: US eShop / UK eShop