We have been waiting for this one. Ever since we first caught glimpses of the game on the developers Twitter page, we have been hankering for more, and when we got hold of an early Beta build, which we based our preview on, our excitement for Retro Racing has just grown and grown.
Why? That is a good question, as there are hundreds of racing games on the iPhone, all vying for attention with modern 3D engines and pushing the boundaries of what the iPhone can do. So what does Retro Racing offer that can compete with some of the behemoths currently straddling the App Store?
The answer is simple. Gameplay.
Brought to us by the developer of the beloved Qwak, Retro Racing is, in gameplay terms, stunning. With controls that have been honed to perfection, the game has a driving model that borders on perfect for a top down racer. The feel of the cars is so smooth, with just the right amount of weightiness as you slide around the corners. This feels like a classic racing game in the spirit of Hot Rod and Nitro where the joy of the game is simply in the playing, and is the sort of game where every mistake is your own fault, either through your own lack of skill, or more likely your impatience.
The game stars a great array of retro themed Formula One cars, and they and the tracks they race on look downright gorgeous to my rose tinted, 90′s gamer eyes. Modern players may sniff at the lack of 3D effects and bump mapping and yes, there is no Unreal Engine in site, but I fail to see how anyone wouldn’t fall in love with the look after a few minutes play. The fact that it all runs at 60fps is a credit to the designer.
The cars are all arranged into teams, and the way the menus change colours to match the theme of your chosen team is a lovely touch. Different cars have different starting stats, and some perform better on different tracks than others, although I would say that all of the tracks are fairly well balanced.
Retro Racing is different to many arcade style racers in that the collectibles that are strewn all over the track actually effect the stats of your car for the duration of the race. That means that if you are in a car that has a high top speed but poor cornering, and you find your self on a tricky and twisting low speed track, you are going to want to find a few traction power ups as fast as you can. On the same track, a car with good cornering is probably going to be looking for an acceleration booster first.
The power ups are found at certain points around the track, and grabbing them usually means breaking out of your racing line, and some of them are in extra bits of the track, hidden around optional, difficult corners that cost you a lot of time until you start to find the correct path. The tracks are very well designed, and are all fun to race around, with a few shortcuts and turbo boosts along the way.
The computer cars have a good level of A.I. and will defend their line and even make mistakes, and the front two cars are especially hard to catch.
While it may not take you long to finish the main game, this title is really all based around Game Center leaderboards, with a leaderboard for each track. the game tells you your best time, how you rank against your friends on a weekly and all time basis, and you can even add friends and post your times to Twitter and via Email. These leaderboards are fantastic, and as more people start to play the game, the competition is only going to get better.
There are 12 tracks, and six cars to choose from, three of which must be purchased, and if you buy the game on iPad, there is a smart two player/same screen mode to enjoy. When I wrote my preview piece, I ran off a list of the things I unrealistically wanted included, but to be honest the only disappointment is really the lack of a two player mode via Bluetooth for the iPhone version, as multiplayer is really where top down racers are at their best. I suspect it may have been omitted to keep the game running at 60fps, but it is still a loss.
Overall, though this is a brilliant little racer than should be an instant download for anyone. With supreme playability, a frankly brilliant Game Center implementation and those oh so gorgeous retro graphics, Retro Racing is a minor classic that should not, under any circumstances, be missed.