Blast from the past.
Back in the days of the Amiga, I found myself addicted to a little racing game by the name of Nitro. It took the traditional top down racer and added a bucketful of excitement through power-ups dotted around the track and some pretty fierce competition from the AI.
This isn’t a review of Nitro, but it could be. Retro Racing and Nitro are very closely linked, not least because they were both coded by the same person, Jamie Woodhouse, and it shows . Despite Nitro being set in a futuristic environment and Retro Racing being more of a present day racer, there are plenty of graphical similarities between the two games. Retro Racing comes across as a cleaned up, repainted version of the older game, albeit with more detail and a shinier look.
The game is deliberately designed to look old fashioned, as you’d expect from the title. It’s an interesting mix of 16-bit top down racer with a modern lick of polish with the action taking place with the phone in portrait rather than the usual landscape mode.
While having the phone upright to play doesn’t provide a larger view of the track, which would help with working out the next corner, it does force the player in to memorising the various twists and turns rather than just relying on reactions. This results in playing tracks over and over to get the best placing and score, learning short cuts and tight corners as you go. It also means that the racing is very much ‘in your face’ which makes for some frantic battles when other racers try to knock you off the road.
Variety comes in the form of the cars on offer, with different speed and power options for each model. There are no real visual differences in the cars, unlike Nitro, which is a shame, but they are colour coded. I’d have liked to see a few different car models and drivers though. I miss the android Rambo and Clint Eastwood. Three far more powerful cars can be unlocked through In App Payment, but it would have been nice to have some form of upgrade for current cars along with harder opponents in later races.
Upgrades dotted around the track build up speed, acceleration and other stats,but only last for the one race, with the car reverting back to its initial values for the next track. Remembering where items are placed on your first lap helps in planning whether they’re worth going slightly off track for a quick boost or extra traction throughout the rest of the race.
Controls hark back to the simple days where only left, right and accelerate were needed. Though they might appear simplistic, they work perfectly here and the control system is precise enough to pull off some good manoeuvres.
Another element that borrows from the original game is the AI model, which seems just as keen as ever on seeing you go spinning off the road. Bumps will often result in you or the other car hitting the scenery or skidding in to oil patches or cones, slowing you down in the process. This is where Retro Racing beats many other racers and the AI makes up for a lack of multiplayer on the iPhone. iPad racers have the unusual option of holding one side of the device while an opponent holds the other for some split screen multiplayer.
While there is no multiplayer to speak of on iPhone, registered friends appear on your leaderboards, so there is plenty of opportunity to go back to old tracks and beat their times. This is just as well, as there are only 12 tracks on offer which good players can blast through in under an hour. The game could really do with another trick in order to lure players back to old tracks. Lap times are all very well, but how about trophies and other collectables? As it stands, once you’ve reached 3rd place, the next track opens and there is little need to go back and repeat earlier courses if you’re not bothered by the leaderboard.
Despite this lack of content, Retro Racing does what it sets out to do in bringing the days of top-down 16-bit style racing to the iPhone and while games like Death Rally and Reckless Racing 2 have added a huge variety of courses and vastly upgraded graphics, there’s still something satisfying about the retro nature of the game.
With more tracks,more variety and more reason to go back to earlier races, Retro Racing would be perfect, but as it stands the game is still a great little racer that will remind old timers like myself of the glory days of the Amiga.
- Sound: 7
- Graphics: 7
- Gameplay: 8
- Longevity: 7
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