3DS Download | Arc System Works / Sweet-Soft | 1-2 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now (North America) | $6.99
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27th August 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
You can tell a lot about the game's personality just by looking at it. Held up entirely by the track layouts themselves, the world the developers have put together isn't, in fact, put together; more accurately that the race tracks fell into place. The whole premise of VectorRacing, as supported by its surroundings, is geared towards being free from distraction right from the outset. Viewing environmental detailing and outer flare as pointless add-ons, there are no side-shows, no flashing lights, no surprise special effects, not even an audience to observe what transpires on the field. In fact, not even the 3D serves a purpose here (there's ghosting, too), nor does the muted and repetitive music. It's really just you and the track. The walls that it's built up (or the lack thereof, depending on how you look at it) tends to suggest an obscured intent, even though the environment doesn't need beautifying in order to be functional as either a piece or a compliment to gameplay. And judging from the way the game exists in a vacuum all on its own, it can only be concluded that this void doesn't carry an effectiveness to it in spite of the forced minimalism.
Getting into the game itself, though, VectorRacing is concise without coming across as too primitive. Choosing from a handful of futuristic cruisers, you will join five opponents on a line-heavy track and proceed to engage in two- or three-lap races of debatable speed and pace. As much as the game tries to suggest otherwise, a high-speed endeavour this is not -- at least not unless you play on Expert. Controls-wise, the B Button is used for acceleration, the Circle Pad for control, and X is to switch to a different camera view. On the HUD, you'll find an energy meter that relates to the amount of damage that can be withstood before your vehicle is forced into self-destruct mode. This won't eliminate you from the game entirely, but it can set you back a couple seconds. And since energy is automatically restored each time you cross the finish line, it's only with the later stages that you'll have to be concerned about possibly finding yourself in such a predicament. In terms of handling, even with the differing attributes of each individual vehicle, VectorRacing features some fairly tight controls. This is also reflected in how races unfold on the screen in a fluid manner. However, all it takes is either a sharp turn or an inconvenient collision initiated by an enemy for the game to transition to a place where things appear less smooth and refined. With the latter point in particular, cornering in this game is done with a delayed unreliability to such a point where the suggestion of drifting becomes a moot point.
Especially with all the black everywhere, the game's reliance on basic structure as a normalcy becomes really noticeable. While the first set of levels in the Grand Prix are more linear by design, things get interesting later on as you find winding paths, spirals, arched surfaces, suspender bridges, and so on used in connection with the medium-length tracks. I did find one course eclipsed the rest in terms of points of interest, though. As for track elements, you'll only ever find green boost pads, which means your trust will be placed in your cruiser's attributes in order to get ahead. Although the second batch of courses does make the textual suggestion of the game having "unique features", the reality is that there's nothing proprietary about what VectorRacing is or does, and this is an unfortunate downfall when you consider what it's up against.
There's a subdued thrill that I observed as I began playing this game, but this quickly faded away by the second race. By then, I desired more influence and control over the environment and really the races themselves, and for that reason I was thrown off by the suggestion of the energy meter, thinking this would correlate to manual boost power. Sadly, as pointed out earlier, that is not the case. Since these feelings surfaced in the early part of the first Grand Prix, I had hoped this would be a case where future batches of courses would present new elements to hold my attention. Instead, I got the vibe of "been there, done that" as I moved forward.
Even amidst the restrained tossing and turning that is seen in the later courses, I often felt that the layouts might as well have been straightaways since not only are many of them flat in their executions, but there's also barely any competition taking place. Vehicle depending, it can take less than five seconds to pass everyone at the very start, and from there, unless you crash into a wall or chose a slow-starting vehicle, there's not much fun or challenge to be had. It's disappointing that none of the mechanics -- as basic as they are -- behave as agents towards the driving of sustained interest, but when you also couple this with the desire for more oomph in the way of influence, any initial feelings of being rarin' to go are thus quickly replaced with a longing for more.
For what it's worth, VectorRacing is still a functional piece of software, and while I have qualms about its execution, I don't feel that it holds to a thread-like constitution. So by that assessment, I also wouldn't say the game is in desperate need of reform. However, it lacks pungency and, for that reason, comes across as something that takes up space rather than filling it and then owning it. Now some may say online play would've made for a better case of value instead of just having online leaderboard functionality (local multiplayer is included also). But since there's little you can do to catch up aside from hoping that misfortune finds its way to the person up at the front, I really don't think online play would've made this game a lot better.
VectorRacing has a very friendly way about it in that no prior experience or familiarity with other racing games is required to understand what its intent is. And I was happy to see that the game didn't get caught up in the whole retro phase as an argument for oversimplifying its elements. Still, the game inwardly is in need of attention and does not know how to articulate this on an outer level in a way that would be perceived as attractive. Even though it doesn't serve to build upon its own purpose, if you have no other options available, I suppose VectorRacing will still serve a purpose. I can indeed see kids having some fun with this in the short term, but it's definitely not strong enough to go any further than that. The appeal wears off quick, and what you're left with is a game you'll want more from but find no attempts to have such wishes satisfied.
18/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 6/10 - Uncomplicated controls, basic track layouts with a few interesting points here and there, not refined in all areas, nothing special to it
Presentation 6/10 - Minimalism at the forefront but doesn't reach a strong effectiveness, pointless 3D, music could have been a lot better
Enjoyment 3/5 - Wears off quick with very little to sustain interest, doesn't make a strong enough case, user-friendly nature still makes it fun for kids
Extra Content 3/5 - A number of courses to choose from, online rankings, local multiplayer, time attack mode, different difficulty settings
Equivalent to a score of 60% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System