It’s not entirely Rock N’ Racing Off Road DX’s fault that it didn’t live up to my expectations. If I’m being totally honest, I misread the title and thought this was going to be the long-awaited Switch sequel to Rock N’ Roll Racing, the SNES game that was developed by Blizzard. That’s entirely my fault, and I apologize. So I did try and trim my ambition and curb my enthusiasm to match this game who, coming from EnjoyUp Games, I had never heard of and was more than willing to give a fair shot.
Rock N’ Racing Off Road DX (henceforth the title will be shortened) is a spiffy little racing game that delivers exactly what the title promises: off road racing circuits. Starting in North America and making your way around the globe, you race against seven other cars in an effort to be the best of the best in a rough and tumble, four lap (usually) fight to the finish. There aren’t any fancy weapons or crazy turbo boosters here: just tight driving and skill.
Right off the bat, Rock N’ Racing does its best to emulate and entertain with the kind of engagement that you’d find in some of the classic, almost slot-car type racing games. The courses start off fairly simple but quickly become decked out in tight turns, large jumps and plenty of places to crash. This is where things can almost immediately get tricky, as you realize that the turning for Rock N’ Racing goes only one way. That is, you need to keep the orientation of your car in mind as you drive because you don’t adjust the perspective of your joystick with the car. If left means left, remember where left is supposed to be when your car is now driving south, otherwise you might take a hard turn into a wall that surprises only you. But don’t worry, you might not need to worry too much about that, because, once you get a handle on things, you’d be surprised how easily the game pays out.
There are a few things I like about Rock N’ Racing. Firstly, the multiplayer. It’s simple enough to have four players on the Switch’s screen, even in undocked mode, and, due to the overhead view, you don’t need to jockey for screen position in order to keep track of your car. The physics of how things work make sure that you can successfully ram your friends at the right angle to send them off course, and they, in turn, can punch you pretty hard right on the sofa. There’s no online multiplayer, so bad news for fans who don’t like couch, but it really wouldn’t feel fun with online racing. Since the game is pretty simple, online would just make it seem like one CPU player is exceptionally aggressive.
Also, I kind of like that the different car unlocks (gotten from finishing circuits) feel almost entirely aesthetic and not necessarily a skill upgrade. There have been plenty of racing games in the past where getting a higher car to be used meant abandoning the first car you started with, regardless of your preferences. Beach Buggy Racing was exceptionally guilty of this practice, and that was even with being able to upgrade the stats of your first car. In Rock N’ Racing, you can change your frame and your paint job, but it’s the driver, not the vehicle, that wins the race.
Now, there are a couple of caveats that keep this game from becoming a great one. The lack of any real tutorial, for example. You’d think needing a tutorial in this game wouldn’t be necessary, but hear me out. There’s clearly an area for “training,” which makes you think you’d get some instruction on how to work the brake and reverse in time with acceleration to make tight turns. Instead, you get thrown into a closed arena with four ramps and basically left alone in the ball pit until you’re bored. I don’t really see the point of the training area as a result. I mean, if you’re gonna have it there, at least list what the buttons do. First time racers need to figure it out on the fly, as there are no menus to change anything. At all. It’s borderline bizarre.
Additionally, the AI is simply terrible. I don’t understand the logic for most/all of the other racers, but it seems to shift on the fly for no apparent reason. Sure, the people who get first and second are there because they’re driving in a good manner, but once they get off track they go completely insane. There was a four car pileup because two cars just kept headbutting each other. I saw someone take a right turn instead of a left and fly off the track in the opposite direction. And I couldn’t finish one race because all racers need to cross, and there was an AI who was literally driving into the wall perpendicular to the finish line, just merrily smashing in his front end without caring about the race. It was complete nonsense and I just had to sit there until they figured out how to move forward.
There isn’t a ton to say about Rock N’ Racing Off Road DX, which is surprising that such a long title gets such a short review. You can drive on some courses, you can bump some players, and you might have more fun with other people than the AI, and that’s about it. Once you’ve beaten all the championship levels, you can do a time attack or just polish up your rank till you’re a perfect gold. There’s no personality to the drivers and nothing special about the cars and, frankly, I’m going to forget about this game in a few days. If you’re looking for a simple racing game that’ll pass a little time one afternoon, you could do worse, but don’t expect a level of Mario Kart to manifest here.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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