Midtown Crazy Race is pitched as a throwback to 90s style arcade racers, and in fairness, the first thing I thought when I saw the game in action was just how much it looked mike Midway’s brilliant, San Francisco Rush 2049. In fact, with its blocky, primary coloured visuals, its futuristic cityscape and its intentionally twitchy handling, in many respects, Midtown Crazy Race is almost exactly the same as Midway’s arcade classic…..oh, except for the fact that it’s sh*t.
This is such a crushingly disappointing release, one that, despite its budget visuals, promised an opportunity to relive my days playing San Francisco Rush 2049 on the Dreamcast – no such luck. Yeah, it kind of looks like that game (at a glance), but look a little closer and you’ll soon find a game built of the same bricks but without any of the passion or imagination inherent to its source material.
Yes, it does have an initial retro charm, but that soon wears off when you realise how little effort has gone into creating anything resembling an interesting city. The flat background buildings suggest a futuristic cityscape, but nothing on the roads really matches up. It does have the option to play at day or night, but it makes no difference to the gameplay at all. It’s a cobbled together world with no charm a little resemblance to the playgrounds that made games such as San Francisco Rush such a joy to play.
Taking on a ‘Practice’ run, one of the games’ 3 paltry modes, you’ll quickly find out that the city is drab, lifeless, and most disappointingly, completely without things to see or do. No jumps, no collectibles, just an open city to drive around in. It’s a totally pointless mode and serves only to remind you just how light a package this is really is and, despite its noble intentions, how it has completely failed to capture the essence and sense of fun found in the games that it so clearly attempts to ape.
Things don’t get much better in the other modes; one sees you racing through a collection of flashing checkpoints as you race against the clock while the other has you racing through a collection of flashing checkpoints as you race against AI racers. They are as similar as they sound with the only difference being that you have to deal with the outrageously annoying AI during races.
With its odd physics and terrible hit detection, other racers will often ram you straight from the off and even get stuck against your car. This essentially ends the race before it has started and highlights once again just how poorly designed this game truly is. Even if you do manage to avoid your opponents, the twitchy handling will often see you spin-off on corners or flip out of control at the slightest touch. Yes, the Rush games had twitchy handling, but in those cases, it felt like they were attached to a learning curve that gave the handling a sense of progression and mastery. There is none of that here with too many of the actions, be it via your own driving or through collisions, feeling utterly random.
There are a selection of cars to unlock, but there are no classes or vehicle specific competitions. You unlock cars by winning the extremely short events, but as to what cars you’ll be racing against in any given event? Well, that’s down to a roll of a virtual dice. It doesn’t really matter though as, beyond being progressively faster, none of the cars feel particularly unique, with each sharing that same twitchy, unreliable handling that is made all the worse by the games’ insistence that you use the GamePad’s built in gyroscope as the one and only control method.
An obvious holdover from its release on mobile platforms, the enforced use of the gyroscope unsurprisingly makes the already twitchy handling even worse. Sadly, while the tilt controls make it across from the mobile release, the multiplayer options does not. With no multiplayer offering of any sort, you can’t even enjoy this in a so bad it’s good kind of way.
Midtown Crazy Race has noble intentions and it would be great to see a more skilled developer recreate the magic of late 90s arcade racers, but as it stands, this is, well, it’s a bit of an abomination if I am to be honest. It kind of….sort of looks like those classic Midway racers from my youth, but beyond its passing visual resemblance and twitchy controls, completely fails to capture the fun and excitement that made those games quite so special. This is a poorly realised, poorly designed attempt at an homage and should be avoided at all costs by those with fond memories of the Rush series……or by anyone who enjoys good video games for that matter.
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