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Remote Racers - DSiWare Review

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Remote Racers

DSiWare | QubicGames | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | 500 Nintendo Points
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24th February 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

With repeated trumpeting from the developers that Remote Racers is the "greatest 3D racing game in some time", it's hard not to be even a little bit curious about whether or not that claim is true. And with the success of AiRace still deep in the minds of many, all eyes are on QubicGames to see whether or not this new title will (excuse the pun) even remotely measure up to their earlier title. Naturally, I had modest expectations of my own for this title. It was nice to see that Remote Racers did turn out to be a good effort in the end, but I still feel that it could have been even stronger.

    In this Micro Machines-esque title, players can participate in races of up to six people at a time. Options for play include a Championship mode where you'll sign up for a foursome series of challenges for each of the eight vehicles included in the game. Only the Speeder car is available at the start, but as you complete challenges, you'll unlock additional vehicles to try out. At the conclusion of each event, you may be rewarded with a Bronze, Silver or Gold medals for placing well in the overall standings. Along the way, you'll earn Race Points that will unlock new content once certain thresholds have been reached. Single Race allows you to face the AI in a triple-lap race on any of the tracks you've unlocked, while Time Race has you playing by yourself, aiming for the best single-lap record.

    When you're on the track, you'll find that the controls work pretty well. You use the D-Pad to steer and the A Button for acceleration. Pressing the Y Button will activate your handbrake, while holding B will put your car in reverse. You also have a horn that you can beep by pressing X. The L and R shoulder buttons can be used individually to trigger a power-up, or simultaneously to manually reset your car. I found myself making use of this feature more than I thought, especially since it minimizes frustrations that could be had from getting stuck in an awkward spot.

Tracks are set up with straightaways, bridges, ramps, winding turns, caves and inclines. Green gems are situated throughout (except during a Time Race) that will give you one of three items when they're picked up: Nitro, Rocket or Landmine. I was actually surprised the item system in this game was very basic, but because they're balanced, skill is ultimately emphasized over the luck of the draw which is great. On each of the land-based track designs, there are also patches of water areas that will instantly transform your car into a boat once contact is made. The controls here take some getting used to, but it's definitely a nice element to the gameplay structure.

    Each of the eight vehicles feature unique controls that set them apart from the rest. For example, the large Monster truck doesn't have great handling but it can reach a steady clip with relative ease. The Dozer vehicle can pass along rugged terrain with no problem and can even knock rivals out of the way, but it's also slower than some of the other cars. With goals of obtaining a Gold reward on each of the challenges in Championship Mode, you'll need to spend a considerable amount of time with most of them before they can truly be mastered. This way, you systematically learn what sort of mindset you need to have whenever you make a selection. The variety in the vehicle selection is great, and the differing controls allows for experimentation in setting new track records and the like.

    In particular, though, there are three unlockable vehicles that have special features that make them more fun to use. Tanks, for one, have a regular supply of missiles to periodically dish out to unsuspecting opponents. Stunt cars are some of the fastest in the game and have good steering, making them a breeze to play with. And, most notably, the Rocket vehicle is a super-fast transport that can regularly use Nitro boosts to stay ahead. These are unlockables that players look forward to early on in the game. I personally found that the Rocket made the game more enjoyable because of how different it was from the rest.

The track designs in this game are, sadly, not as varied as the vehicle selection. Although there are a total of 15 tracks, many are just rehashes of earlier tracks but with a slightly different path. In actuality, there are probably 4 or 5 distinctly different areas, including a barrel-filled storage facility, an aquarium, and a beach house. Some of them are nicely laid out, but most of them are pretty straight-forward with nothing terribly special to point out. But at the end of the day, the lack of significant variety in the track designs isn't the most pressing issue that plagues this game.

    The biggest issue I had with Remote Racers was its apparent hypocrisy. The developers encourage the player (both in and outside the game) to discover shortcuts as you race, but the sad truth is there isn't much to discover. Each track has yellow gates that are set up much like checkpoints and thankfully you don't actually have to pass through these. If you just miss it or travel along another nearby route a few inches away, the game won't  hold it against you. However, it's when you venture too far off from these gates that the game takes you away from the course you're following and puts you back to the last gate you passed. And to me, driving along grassy areas a few inches away instead of travelling along the smooth white path isn't much of a "shortcut".

    What's even worse is that in some areas, there are visible suggestions of alternate pathways. Like, for example, in the beach house area, there's a set of flat stairs off to the left of the opening you're supposed to go through. These inclined stairs meet up with a platform that racers actually travel on later in the level. So of course, being the curious gamer that I am, I tried to explore this area. But the game rather quickly reset my car back to the main track before I could get very far, prohibiting me from straying too far off from the linear paths that were set out. And to me, that's a bit of a problem. Had they worked shortcuts and branching routes into the level designs, this game would have been even more enjoyable. The way it's set up now almost feels like potential was wasted. 

Another issue I had with the game has to do with the matter of presentation. I encountered a number of glitches during my playthrough of this game, including five separate incidents where I fell through the floor. Another time, the game incorrectly stated that I was going the wrong way when I wasn't. So of course, both of these affected my view of the game. Additionally, I wasn't too fond of the setup of the Main Menu. Compared with AiRace which was very polished and well put together, the basic layout didn't do much for me. And speaking of AiRaceRemote Racers uses the exact the same music that was featured in the developer's last title. This isn't bad in itself, but when the songs aren't even a good fit with this game, you can't help but be annoyed with them. Other than that, the game looks good, running on the same engine as their last game.

    More obvious, though, is the fact that Remote Racer includes no multiplayer component to speak of. Thankfully it's not missed as much since the single-player aspect is pretty good. But it's still easy to complain about the fact that this racer does not include any wireless capabilities or even the ability to create multiple profiles.

    Even with these flaws though, the game is fairly enjoyable and the challenge factor certainly helps with that. I think kids especially will have a great time with this title, especially because of the replay value that's created from having to master unique vehicles and set track records. For everyone else, I'd say it's mildly entertaining, but you may want to factor in periods where the game may start to get a bit bland. Thankfully, as I said earlier, the Rocket vehicle helps make the game fun all over again so it's not a big thing to worry about.  

    All in all, Remote Racers is a pretty good racer for the DSiWare platform, but it's definitely not QubicGames' best effort. Do I think it's "the best greatest 3D racing game in some time"? No. In fact, I think that statement is too optimistic. If anything, I'd be more inclined to say that about AiRace which is more frantic, has stronger presentation, and ultimately is more enjoyable to play. But don't count this game out completely. It does have some positive attributes including the focus on skill, the variation in the vehicle selection and the challenging gameplay. But it also has its share of flaws including level designs that should have been pushed further, and issues with the overall feel of the package. Still, if you're in the mood for a well-priced racing title, Remote Racers will serve you fairly well.

20/30 - Good

Gameplay 7/10 - Good controls, basic items keep the focus on skill, track designs should have been pushed further, auto reset limits exploration
Presentation 7/10 - Great visuals, music is re-used and doesn't fit that well, annoying glitches, layout could have been polished more
Enjoyment 3/5 - Kids will enjoy this most, mildly entertaining but not as enjoyable as AiRace, challenging AI, the final unlockable vehicle is especially fun
Extra Content 3/5 - Multiple challenges to complete and different vehicles to unlock and master, well-priced at $5, no multiplayer, can't create profiles

Equivalent to a score of 67% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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