Developed By: Sumo Digital, Lucky Mountain Games Published By: Curve Digital Categories: Racing, Arcade Release Date: 09.10.20
In the sea of retro inspired games, it’s very rare to find games in the style of 3D Retro. You get a typhoon of pixel games trying to ape 8 or 16 bit games of the past, but seldom do games trying to throw back to games of the 32 or 64 bit era, or even Sega’s early attempts at 3D, in Hotshot Racing’s case in particular, the inspiration is Virtua Racing.
Hotshot Racing might be a bit too similar to Virtua Racing for it’s own good. From the ugly yet beautifully nostalgic, non-textured artstyle to how it plays on the track, it really feels like a long lost sequel. It goes without saying however, if you didn’t really grow up in the era when something like Virtua Racing was state of the art, all of this will fly over your head and seem very passe. That is to say, this probably isn’t going to get any new fans of the genre, it’s aiming for a very niche group, those who have the nostalgia for games like Virtua Racing. This is arguably a bit more difficult to really market, as the zeitgeist always points towards pixel art and not the awkward introduction to 3D graphics.
Further pushing the statement from earlier, you’re playing what is essentially a lost sequel to Virtua Racing with a console release in mind. There is simply more of everything. Over a dozen stages each with a mirror counterpart, eight characters, all of which have multiple color choices. Each driver also having three different cars, all of which can be customized to your desire, although you need to unlock majority of the options. Unlocking extra content will take a lot of time and a decent amount of skill, this is per character and vehicle on top of that. If you’re not going to get super into the game, you aren’t likely to unlock much, but all of that would be cosmetic and nothing to really hinder how you play. Nothing related to gameplay will be locked.
Getting down to the racing, it feels as good as any other racer from the age. Choose your style of shifting, automatic or manual. Auto is substantially easier, but also slower than Manual. It also might be a tad too difficult to use a Manual transmission depending on which car you chose, as their stats all focus on a different thing such a speed, acceleration, and drifting. While I personally use Manual to better myself a racer and at shifting, there’s no shame in using Automatic, especially in singleplayer to unlock the cosmetics. All that said, the challenges to unlock cosmetics are usually a bit fun, such as drifting straight for an extended period.
If you’ve played any classic 3D racing game, you’re probably going to get the gist of Hotshot Racing awful fast. To the uninformed, it’s a classic arcade style racer. It’s fast, it’s not realistic in the least, and it’s fun for the sake of fun. Much like games from the the developer Sumo Digital’s past, drifting is a key component to the game. Drifting gets you through those quick turns, fill up a boost meter, and honestly just look cool to pull of successfully. Drifting however can feel a tad slippery and loose in my experience with the game though, as I’d constantly find myself just swerving around with drifts, which isn’t exactly a fun feel. On top of just standard races though, are a few extra modes which can be done solo with bots, with friends, or even online. Both of these extra modes employ a health bar, draining when struck, or when crashing, and outside of speed being vital, this is what they have in common. You have a Cops and Robbers type game which is rather self explanatory at face value; your goal is to make the most money of all of the robbers, last the longest, and not get destroyed, which makes you into the cop. The other mode, draining your health constantly the moment you go below a certain speed, giving me flashbacks to the film named…Speed. This mode in particular requires a nice bit of experience with the tracks you’ll play on otherwise you won’t last long at all, losing health from bumping into rails or just not being fast enough, caused from those bumps.
Hotshot Racing to me has only a handful of flaws, but they do really sit and bother me quite a bit. The previously mentioned slippery nature of drifting, which Sumo Digital usually does do rather well always felt off and I’d almost try to avoid drifting at times. The other issue to me is the music. By no means is the music bad, but I never felt like it fit with the retro styling the game used. It felt far too modern. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue, but when everything else is on point with the retro theme, having music that stands out that much really pulled me out.
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*Game Download Code supplied for review purposes