For all modern gaming’s bells and whistles, sometimes it’s nice to go back to the basics. After all, you don’t always need a sweeping soundtrack or fantastic plot when you’ve got a simple control method and a lot of fun! Well for both you old gamers and the assorted newcomers alike, Playbox and Digital Reality have gone for just that feel in their latest title, Bang Bang Racing, released on Steam, Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network.
The game itself features a few different modes – Career, Championship and Free Play. Career sees you compete in four different styles of motorsports, at different speeds and with different styles of vehicle, while gradually unlocking different machines in single player by racing against the CPU. Championship is much the same, but with an added multiplayer mode for up to four players. Free Play is what you’ll mostly use for multiplayer, allowing you to create a customizable single race to play with friends. These are nice and varied, and ensure you can have a lot of fun with friends – something the game is very much designed for.
The races themselves are fairly short, consisting of five laps or so, each of which takes roughly thirty seconds to complete. You’ll generally compete either against the clock or seven other players at varying levels of difficulty. Time trial races offer you the chance to test your ability to speed round the track in the smallest time possible, whereas in elimination races, the racing continues as normal, but every ten seconds the player in last place is remove. This makes for some genuinely tense moments as you and a rival frantically deploy everything to avoid the threatening red circle. This arcade style gameplay is backed up by a very simple control method, consisting of movement controls with the arrow keys, a limited but regenerating boost, plus a brake that’s mainly used for drifting around corners. You restore both the health of your vehicle and the amount of boost you have available by traveling through a pit area positioned by the side of the track.
When you place in the top three, you’ll be shown unlockables, which generally consist of new races through familiar terrain as well as more vehicles for you to play with. This is a pretty good feature, as a game with such simple mechanics needs to have some sort of hook to keep players with the game and stop them getting bored. One area of concern is the somewhat lacking number of environments and vehicles to find, but with a game so small (BBR clocks in at around 200MB), you can’t expect much more. Unfortunately though, the game is far, far too easy for any reasonably experienced player to have any trouble unlocking everything within a couple of hours of play. Throughout several cups, our character never once placed any lower than second, meaning we were pretty much guaranteed all the unlocks within the first few plays. That said, the emphasis seems to be placed on the game being arcadey fun rather than a solid single-player experience, so the bonus system is geared towards finding things to use in the multiplayer mode.
Multiplayer is local-only (at least on PC) which seems needlessly restrictive, since the game runs through Steam, so the infrastructure is already there to get it going. It’s a great shame really, since it feels like it could have been a blast to pass a couple of otherwise boring hours leaving your friends in the dust. While multiplayer is present, it’s played through keyboard sharing or connecting Xbox 360 controllers to the PC, an inelegant solution that leaves the system wide open to the old-school griefing methods of controllers being unplugged and good old fashioned violence.
As previously mentioned, there are several varieties of race, such as time trials, elimination contests and, you know, proper racing, all presented in the style of the old Micro Machines games – top-down driving using vehicles that are supposed to be toy cars. The filter that blurs the track ahead of you actually helps with this impression, since it makes the game look as if it’s being filmed through a macro lens, while the spectators are reminiscent of Mii heads. The game does strive for realism in some of its elements, like the physics and particle effects of sand, oil etc., but it never really added much, seeming like something from the early days of the generation, when developers threw in all the physics they could in order to try and show off.
Not that the physics-y items ever really added much to gameplay either. Of sand, snow, oil and explosive barrels, only the latter pair were very noticeable. However, the way they do affect the cars is rather clever, with skidding around corners being common on oil slicks and explosives being excellent for taking our racers on your tail. It’s little touches like this that add some variety and strategy to the game, and add some genuinely satisfying moments when you ram the car that’s neck and neck with you into a patch of oil and send it swerving into the barrier. The cars themselves make very impressive use of PhysX, skidding nicely around corners and feeling pretty solid when they collide while jimmying for position. A particular favourite exploit of the engine is using a player ahead of you as a sort of bumper to spring round corners, plowing them into a wall and sending you zooming off ahead. Bang Bang Racing? They should call it Bash Bash Racing instead.
Speaking of which, the sound effects are actually very nicely recorded, and everything you could want from an arcade racing game. This means the screech of tires, powerful engine noises and the whooshing sounds created by a well timed boost. What’s left to be desired is the soundtrack, which while certainly adequate probably won’t light anyone’s world on fire and probably needs a bit of work. Even better, as in games like WipeOut, let the players import their own soundtracks – it can certainly make party games a blast when you’re racing to Gary Jules’ Mad World.
When all is said and done, Bang Bang Racing is a solid, fun racing game with hours of content for a very low price. It’s lacking some depth and still feels like a port of an Android game rather than a proper PC/console version, but it has no real flaws that make it not worth playing. If you find yourself with some disposable income or want to gift a friend a game, Bang Bang Racing will do the job. 7.5/10
Have you played Bang Bang Racing? Did you like it or not? Feel free to discuss the game or our review below!