Motor racing has long been a club for the boys, for multi millionaires who love their flashy cars. Rules and safety underpin the existence of this sport, my latest review title blows this understanding out of the water with its arcade style, and disregard for the rulebook. It has a lack of officials, and an anything goes attitude. Formula Retro Racing is a 1980’s inspired arcade racing title that asks you to take control of an F1 race car, and compete in 2 different game modes to see who can be crowned the champion. Developed and published by Repixel8, this title lives and breathes the 80s gaming era.
Before you start playing this, you’ll need to disregard everything that you know about Formula 1, and racing in general. The only similarities to modern day racing is the requirement to complete laps, overtake your opponents, and that points are allocated based on what position you finish each race. During each event you’ll find that cars will swerve into your path, ram you off the track, and crash into you at high speeds. Pit lanes are non existent, as is a qualifying round. You start near the back every time, and you must work your way up the field as quickly as possible.
The two modes available to select are; Arcade, and Eliminator. In the arcade mode your aim is to finish as high up the field as possible while ensuring that you keep your timer topped up. Depending on which difficulty you select; 1, 2, or 3 stars, will alter the amount of time that is awarded at each checkpoint. If you run out of time the race is over, and you must begin again. The Eliminator mode is frustratingly brutal, but was where I spent most of my time. Again, you begin at the rear of the pack, you must get to at least 10th place before the end of the first lap, once you are there you must maintain a minimum of that position. If you happen to drop below 10th then you are eliminated at the end of the lap, and points are allocated based on the number of laps completed multiplied by the difficulty level. I stated that it was brutal, and it is, let me explain. At the start the cars travel at particularly slow speeds they are easy to pass, other than the usual attempts to block you. As race time ticks on, your opponents get progressively quicker. I can only describe them as passing you like a bullet from a gun, there is no way to stop them. “How is it a fair race, if the opposition is much faster than you?” you might ask, well, it isn’t. You allow them to pass and just await the inevitable moment that you are eliminated.
There is a total of 8 venues to select from, 5 are unlocked immediately, and the others will become available once you have accumulated enough points. The new stages add very little challenge. If they weren’t so easy to obtain, I’d say it wasn’t worth the effort. Points will also advance your driving license, you start as an amateur, and eventually reach the dizzying heights of professional. It adds absolutely nothing to the gameplay, and is merely a title, which gives the player something to focus on. There is no career mode, multiplayer, or variety in car to select. As such, the action feels pretty hollow, and you must accept it for what it is. It is a basic arcade experience where the hardest part is the unfair game mechanic that ensures the computer players are much faster than yourself.
If you are old enough to have experienced gaming through the 80s, then Formula Retro Racing will feel very familiar. The exceptionally vibrant colours, angular models, and garish images represent the era perfectly. I was reminded of Namco’s 1983 game Pole Position. The car models, and perspective in which the action takes place are very similar. This approach will not be to everyone’s liking, though the bright colours do make it easier on the eyes. The landscapes vary nicely at each venue, this was a nice touch as most of the gameplay is repetitive, and this broke up the stagnant feeling.
It’s very rare that I enjoy listening to 80s synthesized music, but for this title I’ll make an exception. The music was absolutely fantastic, and brought a wry smile to my face when I first heard it. Its upbeat tempo and electronic sound matches the era and theme perfectly. You’d think that the shrill notes would get monotonous and boring quickly, but it was quite the opposite. The driving action is matched with a number of songs, each more electronic and funkier than the last. Whenever I contemplate playing any Motorsports game, my first concern isn’t the gameplay, but the fear of awful engine noise. Repixel8 got this spot on, the balance between the sound effects and the music was just about right.
Like most retro games, this one kept the control system pretty simple, you have the option to drive an automatic, or manual. If you pick the latter, then oddly your maximum speed is 10 mph higher. Steering with the left analogue stick, accelerate and brake, are your main concerns. It’s a good job that it’s easy to understand, as you will be spending most of your time dodging cars and digging yourself out of the grass and gravel traps.
“It’s a racing game, surely there are plenty of reasons to want to keep playing?” you state! Unfortunately not, unless you are desperate to collect all the achievements. A rather short list with just one challenging task, you’ll obtain most of the completion status within the first couple of hours. If I’m being generous, I believe you’ll spend approximately 5 hours on this before deciding enough is enough. Without a career mode to sink your teeth into, and no sign of multiplayer action, you really are limited to what you can do. I understand that the developers wanted to keep this as simple as possible, but even the 80s racing games had time trials to keep their gamers coming back for more.
Most racing games are all about the serious side of the sport. Formula Retro Racing breaks the mould and tries to return us to a simpler time of gaming. With some elements Repixel8 has done a great job, the vibrancy of the colours, and the audio being the standout factors. With a major lack of personalisation, multiplayer, or career mode, as a gamer you are left wanting. Unfortunately, pushing style over substance backfired, it’s fun for a short period of time, but does get old very quickly. If you fancy jumping in the driving seat and taking this title on, then have your wits about you, no one plays by the rules, victory is all that matters.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Formula Retro Racing Review
Gameplay - 5/10
Graphics - 5/10
Sound - 6/10
Replay Value - 4/10
Rules don’t need to be followed in this 80s inspired retro racing game.
80s inspired music works perfectly.
The variety in landscape adds much needed variety.
Achievements relatively easy to obtain.
The gameplay is repetitive.
The graphics won’t be to everyone’s liking.
No Career mode.