Crossing the finish line with Space Racer

Review of Space Racer on XBLIG: Try
This fast-paced retro racer has fun multiplayer, but its single player is a little short.

Space Racer’s tagline is “retro racing evolved,” and that’s a good summary. The look, feel, and sound of the game is reminiscent of an Atari or NES racer, but with slightly souped-up graphical effects. Each track is a (mostly) straight sprint littered with oil slicks and bombs to be dodged and point bonuses to be collected. Later courses feature asteroids that move back and forth across the track.

Most tracks are so packed with obstacles that it’s important to know how to recover quickly from a spill. Hitting a bomb or asteroid can often send a racer careening into another obstacle, setting off a chain reaction of uncontrollable crashes. Regular use of boost is also important, as it’s the quickest way to close the gap when in second place. (For racers with low top speed, it’s essential just to keep up.) Boost accumulates as long as the gas is held down, and point bonuses scattered across the track also refill the boost gauge slightly.

All of this keeps gameplay interesting, since there’s always something happening on the track—there are no long, uneventful straightaways here. Races are short, best-two-out-of-three sprints, so it’s hard to fall too far behind and it’s easy to restart after a loss. For variety, the game offers the choice of four different racers: a light racer with low top speed and high acceleration, a heavy racer with high top speed but low acceleration, and two balanced racers. In my experience, the balanced racers offer the easiest gameplay, while the lightweight and heavyweight racers are a challenge.

The game’s length and single-player difficulty leaves something to be desired. Early tracks are very easy, although in the last two circuits tracks become challenging. Even so, I managed to open up all 12 tracks in about an hour by sticking with the well-balanced racers. There are a few features that add to replay value, however. Each track has two local, pre-populated high score lists: best times and best scores. There’s also a two-player mode which provides additional replay value—it’s much more fun challenging another player than challenging the computer over and over.

Space Racer gets a Try. It’s a fun game, and its only downside is that it’s short. If you enjoy chasing high score lists, if the challenge of mastering the more difficult racers sounds appealing, or if you have someone to play multiplayer with, it’s worth considering. Otherwise, you may be finished with it fairly quickly.

A copy of Space Racer was provided to GameMarx for this review by the developer.


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