Grand Prix Rock ‘N Racing is a top down racing game developed by EnjoyUp Games. They are responsible for developing a range of different games with this game being a sequel to Rock ‘N Racing Off Road DX. This top down racing game as the name suggests had an off-road setting. Grand Prix Rock ‘N Racing ditches this theme and instead introduces circuits whereby you control a Formula 1 car.
Upon starting the game you are introduced to a cheesy voice introducing the name of the game which left me with an immediate ‘budget’ impression towards the game. Furthermore, the image shown in the background of the main menu is pixelated which also gives the impression the game had not been optimised in terms of its visuals when they ported the game over to Nintendo Switch considering the PS4 version of the game was released more than one year ago. Once you get past these early niggles, you are able to select from three different modes. These include Championship, Time Trial and lastly Multiplayer.
Championship Mode is essentially a tournament mode where you compete against ten CPU racers over the course of ten different races across different regions of the world. In terms of visuals these regions all look very similar which makes each of these tracks fairly forgettable. The only way you could distinguish that a course was set in a specific country was from the flag of the country that are placed on poles across a track. It would have been nice if the developers included famous landmarks to differentiate these courses and make them stand out. However, I was quite impressed with how the visuals looked when you actually started playing the game. Although fairly plain the graphics were decent with good lighting effects and good textures on the tracks. The performance of the game was also good, with the exemption of a graphical bug where the track would slightly tear but this was a minimal graphical issue that did not affect the overall appearance of the game. I never encountered any frame drops and the loadings, although frequent between races were no longer than five seconds. This showed that after the negative early impression, EnjoyUp Games at least did a good job porting the game to this hybrid device where it matters most in the game. I spent most of my time playing the game in handheld mode and these impressions in terms of performance and visuals remained positive, not spectacular but certainly not bad either.
The game however takes a turn for the worst when you start playing it. During the first race I noticed that my car was not moving, it turns out that it was moving. It takes about 5 seconds for the car to accelerate and gain speed. Once you start moving and gain some speed (not much speed however) you will come to the first bend at this point you will most likely hit the wall because it also takes two to three seconds for the car to start braking. Considering this game revolves around Formula 1 cars you would think that the cars would start up a bit faster as well as respond to braking faster. This game is rumble compatible and you will notice as you crash for the first time whereby the joy cons will rumble viciously and loudly (mostly noticeable in handheld mode with the joy cons attached). It’s great that the game features rumble but since crashing was so frequent in this game it gets to the point of being annoying.
During the first race not only will you notice that the speed, handling and acceleration is all wrong but you are also very unlikely to win the first race whereby I finished the race around 6th. At this point you have to wait for the other racers to finish the race and if they don’t finish within a certain time limit there is a countdown. Although the wait was minimal I thought that this waiting around was unnecessary and thought that I should have had at least the option to skip it. However, I can compensate that they were most likely trying to improve the presentation of the game.
At this point I wondered where I went wrong (apart from all the crashing) then I had unlocked a new course (for time trial mode) and upgrade points called tokens. These tokens can be used to upgrade the car under five different aspects Speed, Acceleration, Brakes, Turbo and Tyres. In this upgrade menu they also give you the option to select manual drive, however because the game is hard enough to control as it is I see no reason of adding more complications. Back to the point of the upgrades, you can assign the tokens you earned during the race to any of these four features, the better you do in the race the more tokens you earn. For example if you earn three tokens you can assign these three tokens individually to any of the features whereby each can upgraded to a max of ten. However, when your car is underpowered from the start it makes it difficult to earn enough tokens to make a difference. You will most likely still come outside the podium for at least the next couple of races because your car will still be too weak in some form. Furthermore, in relation to unlockables it would have been nice if you could unlock different types of cars. Whilst I understand that the game’s emphasis is on Formula 1, everyone driving the same Formula 1 car in just different colours further added to the shallowness of the experience (e.g. older Micro Machine games allowed you to use a variety of different cars).
As you progress through the first season, you will notice that the tracks that you are unlocking gradually increase in complexity resulting in more turns etc. At this point not only will you be fighting the controls and the sluggish performance of the car but you also find it difficult to predict the next turns making it hard to anticipate that far ahead due to a questionable camera. As a result you will end up needing to look at the map a lot which becomes a pain because you also need to keep focus on the CPU racers hoping that they won’t ram you off the track in the process. This then brings me to the CPU, which I found very unintelligent. Expect to see them crash into walls with many of them being seen off/on the track from time to time even upside down as a result of crashing into each other. They will also drive into you without caring about the consequences of doing so indicating they don’t have much intelligence outside of driving along the path of the track. The CPU makes the game considerably harder to tolerate and as a result it would have made more sense to have fewer cars racing at the same time. Physics are also temperamental, I would have often been rammed by CPU to the point where I would often be sent into the air landing upside down in the process. Additionally, the physics are also a hit-and-miss when colliding with the other racers and the walls, often resulting in the car spinning completely in an unordinary fashion.
Other than competing in these same races again in an attempt to win the championship in season 2 there is very little else to do in Championship mode. The only other offline mode is time trial which as you’d expect allows you to compete for the best time on the ten races you unlock as you progress through your first season in the Championship mode. It’s nice that EnjoyUp Games provides online leader boards for each of these tracks which at least gives the game some replay value provided you can deal with the gameplay. All tokens which you obtained during the Championship mode will be available for use in this mode. This at least gives you a reason to play the Championship mode, provided you want to try to top the online leader boards in the time trial mode. In order for EnjoyUp Games to further strengthen the game’s best mode (due to the removal of unintelligent CPU racers) they could have included ghosts that you could download to race against.
I originally thought that online play should have been included to further improve variety of game modes. However, after playing the game for a while I realised that this was a good decision by the developers. Had there been an online mode I think that it simply would not have been fun, I can imagine everyone just crashing into each other resulting in a frustrating experience due to the game’s physics. What is included however is an offline mode which allows up to four players to compete against each other. You might not want to even consider playing it because of the gameplay, but it is there for those that like offline multiplayer and to compete against friends and family rather than the unintelligent CPU.
The sound for the game is okay provided you like rock ‘n’ roll music, as the title of the game suggests this game essentially features a rock n roll soundtrack. Considering rock ‘n’ roll is practically in the game’s title I was expecting the soundtrack to be at least a bit more memorable. Then there is the unnecessary cheesy voice (most likely inspired by racing games from 1990s including Hydro Thunder) which announces a couple of things that get repetitive and annoying, noticeably saying “Let’s Go!” when starting a race. During the race, sound effects including cars engines, crashing as well as others e.g. crowd making noises when driving past the crowded stands are decent at creating an atmosphere.
I went into Grand Prix Rock ‘N Racing expecting a cheap micro machines clone that would at least be some fun to play. What I got was a shallow, uninspired top down racing game featuring poor handling and unintelligent CPU which have every indent of making your gameplay experience a miserable one. My recommendation would be to put that £7.19 towards Mario Kart 8 Deluxe if you haven’t got it already.
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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