Casual racing games can be immense fun. Remember the joys of Micromachines V3, Mashed, or Mario Kart? They provided a slice of sheer gaming fun, leaving you laughing, giggling, and at the very least smiling, regardless of who won. Watching the trailer from Mini Motor Racing EVO, I was desperately hoping that it could match or possibly even surpass the thrills of the gaming giants that trod before it. I was wrong. Really wrong. So wrong I want to cry.
This game appears to be completely in reverse. Forgive me for being a traditionalist, but I am of the general opinion that something called a ‘beginner cup’ should be something quite simple, something to ease you into the game. It goes without saying that we would expect the ‘expert’ and ‘master’ cups to be something more a of a challenge. Well, Mini Motor Racing EVO gives that notion the finger, and scuttles off in the opposite direction.
Thus, the beginner championship is one of the most teeth-clenchingly, soul-destroyingly frustrating experiences you are ever likely to experience in your gaming career. You will weep, tear out your hair, gnash your teeth, and boil with unbridled rage most of the time. And this is for one supremely simple reason which could so easily have been remedied. Collisions.
Let us take a few case studies to try and highlight where things start breaking down. Bear in mind that these examples are based upon the most common occurrences in each given situation. So these are not rare or isolated problems, these are constantly happening throughout the entire game:
EXAMPLE 1 – I find myself leading the race. As I turn into the corner, the car in second position comes from behind and gently strokes my posterior. I slide straight out and hit the edge of the track, my speed decimated. As the following racers come round the corner, every single one hits me, owing to my slow speed, and knocks me back out to the edge of the track again. I emerge in last position with no hope of victory.
EXAMPLE 2 – I have just overtaken an opposing racer. He is level with me. He steers in towards my car, and effortlessly spins me round. The following cars hit me on the way past, and send me flying. I emerge in last position.
EXAMPLE 3 – I try to spin out another racer. I approach him, and nudge the back of his car. He does indeed spin, and comes to a halt in front me, completely blocking my progress. All other racers pass. When I finally get free of him, he still manages to turn around stay ahead in the race. I emerge in last position.
Simply put, virtually every single time you encounter an AI racer, things will end badly. The slightest touch either to them or from them will generally result in you being flung into the wall, flipped over, spun round, or at the very least slowed down to a crawl. And with some really narrow tracks, and plenty of hairpin bends, there is no way to avoid colliding with the moving destructoids that are the enemy racers.
You soon come to realise that there is only 1 tactic to win races. Get ahead immediately, and stay there. As soon as you get a fragment of distance between you and the bloodthirsty pack behind, the racing turns from blood-curdingly annoying, into something very simple. So long as you don’t make too many mistakes, the race is won.
It must be said that this flaw is exacerbated whilst your car is new and before you start upgrading it. Meaning cornering is painfully slow and slidey, so enemy AI have all the time in the world to bounce you in the buttocks and sail past your corpse. However, as you upgrade your speed, handling, and acceleration, you are able to take corners more fluidly, thus marginally reducing the chances of being botty-batted.
This is the singular reason why the beginner campaign is so difficult, as you attempt to manoeuvre your floundering turd of a car through a moving minefield. Then the following campaigns get progressively easier as your cars get better.
If you want to buy this game for the singleplayer campaign, don’t do it! Try punching yourself in the face instead, as that is significantly less painful overall. However, there is just one small redeeming feature nestled in the hideous bosom of this cruel mistress. This hidden gem is multiplayer. Racing against fellow humans is far more fair and rewarding than the repulsive AI, and can lead to some very satisfying racing.
But to sully this small gleam of light as soon as it has burst forth into the world are 2 rather damning facts. Firstly, out of the 10 attempts I made to play online at different times of day, I only found somebody to play against twice. There are so few people who can stand to play this game, that it takes a whole lot of effort to find opponents. And secondly, there is no local co-op mode, which would have opened up the game to a whole new branch of casual gamers. So sadly this potentially redeeming feature is more of parp than a fanfare.
So far we have discussed just a tiny fragment of what this game actually contains. But in honesty, that is most of what you need to know. The game is generally unplayable. Here is just a very brief précis in case you need it.
4 racing cups. A number of zany little cars to race. Upgradable car parts. Plenty of tracks. Wildly varying and uneven difficulty levels. Invisible walls in open areas. No walls in some scenery. Random points where your car stops dead on a track for no reason. Abysmal handling going up or down slopes. Rather insane nitro boosts. Oh yes, and a mechanical drill sound that dominates almost every single menu until you want to start using it on the developer who included it.
I leave you with this small anecdote. I was racing on a track that was set in an abandoned ghost town. It was about the 20th retry of racing this particular track, because the opponents had unusually fast cars, and naturally blatted me into the dirt at every opportunity. So winning the race turned into a more of a pot luck draw of hoping they would crash into each other just long enough for me to slip into the lead, and then stay there. It finally happened, and I grabbed the lead gratefully, and whizzed off as fast as my nitro would take me.
Feeling quite heady with elation, I sailed down the home straight toward the finish line on the final lap. Then a small twist of tumbleweed rolled languidly up to me, and under my car. My dear little vehicle was lifted completely in the air by this small weed. I spent a very long 2 seconds riding astride it, before it unceremoniously plonked me down on my side. The game eventually reset my car, as the rest of the pack flew past. I finished in last position. Now I shall go sit in the fridge until my blood temperature comes back down to healthy figure.
Reviewed for Bagogames – www.bagogames.com