Hill Climbing Mania Review

One of the many reasons the Nintendo Switch is such a success, is the wealth of games available. However, look on the shelves of your local game shop, and you won’t exactly be bowled over with choice – the vast majority of titles are on the eShop and most of them are direct ports of mobile games. Considering the number of titles available, there’s bound to be some hits, and an equal amount of turkeys, if not more. Hill Climbing Mania has sold millions of copies on mobiles, so the transition to the Switch was inevitable. Does it translate, however?

Immediately this looks like a game you’d find on mobile. The graphics, while sharp and pretty nice, do look like an evolution of Flash games. The music is a typical mixture of out of place rock music that doesn’t fit into any rock categories other than promo videos for random products (I wasn’t a fan). When it comes to the concept, it matches that of the presentation – nice and simple as you navigate your vehicle over a series of increasingly tricky terrains to the finish line, in the process, collecting coins and stars. Coins are used to upgrade your vehicle or buy a new one, and the stars are to help unlock new levels. There’s three to collect in each stage, much like an Angry Birds game – though the stars aren’t a rating, more that you have to collect the stars in increasingly challenging locations.

Anyone can pick up Hill Climbing Mania when it comes to controls, and most likely one of the reasons why so many copies were sold. Using left and right will tilt your vehicle back and forth when in the air and to land correctly (this will happen throughout, so you need to get used to the physics early on), but they’re also used for acceleration. Moving right will take the vehicle forward, whereas moving left will be used for collecting any coins left behind or making a ‘run-up’ to get up a hill. So, the process is straightforward enough; collect three stars and some coins to upgrade your vehicle, and that’s it, but not exactly as the obstacles in the game get more perilous, and you’ll often run out of fuel if you don’t watch out. The physics in the game aren’t exactly accurate either.

There’s no time limit in the game in the sense of a timer in the HUD, but there’s an on-screen gauge that shows how much fuel you have. As you progress, it will steadily drop (swifter if you’re using a high-end vehicle), but if you’re pushing right, it goes even faster. Thankfully there are several fuel cans scattered along with the levels – often at the exact time you need them. Still, they’re often passed in a jump, or they’re on an elevated position that you have to back up for, complete another leap and hope you’ve got enough fuel for it. Run out, and you have to restart the stage. Despite the frustration it imposed, it adds to the challenge, making Hill Climbing Mania something you’re likely to play for more than 10 minutes.

With the coins, you can unlock new vehicles. The reason I’ve been using ‘vehicles’ throughout is that they aren’t exclusively cars. One of the highlights from the line-up is you can choose a variation of The Mystery Machine (the van from Scooby-Doo), a DeLorean from a particular franchise, and grind the levels enough, and you could be in the Batmobile – the Christian Bale one, not Adam West. The cars you start will either run out of fuel quickly or don’t have the power to get up a hill. To counter this, you can upgrade three stats by investing some coin. The engine offers power, making it faster and having the energy to dash up a hill, grip provides better traction and control and fuel means you aren’t running out so frequently. Some of the cars have certain advantages too. Sports cars fumble over the slightest bump but can reach raised platforms due to the speed they travel, whereby the Jeep and monster truck can ride over anything without any fuss.

Upgrading your vehicles comes with a few flaws; however, as with great power comes great instability. When your car is souped-up, expect to clear several sections on a track in one go, often resulting in you crashing into a wall and flipping your car, or merely flipping your vehicle to an awful landing as you’re going too fast. The Jeep handles more like a rear-wheel-drive than a 4×4 as there’s too much power in the back and you end up flipping it, unable to complete the track. With the soft-top vehicles, your driver will slide out of the top and end your attempt. I say ‘slide’ as they don’t get thrown about as you’d expect, they slide out as if in a sleeping bag. With the hardtops, the driver won’t fall out, but you’ll sometimes be upside down, unable to move so have to manually restart the level or return to your garage – you can never return to the map, it always has to be via the garage for some reason.

Though Hill Climbing Mania doesn’t attempt to be anything else other than what is on the surface, the physics are very irritating. There are often moments where the vehicles aren’t touching the terrain (when you start most levels, the signposts, rocks and sometimes trees are floating above the ground), you’ll have to restart because of some invisible wall. When in the air, the elements aren’t affecting your landing. Still, for some reason the vehicle will tilt unnaturally, forcing you to adjust the controls, thus hitting the dirt, manually restarting the track. There are similar titles to Hill Climbing Mania on mobile devices that handled this much better that I’ve been mildly addicted to in the past. It’s not a failed model as such; Hill Climbing Mania is so fiddly and somewhat buggy in places that I got frustrated more with the physics and the way the vehicles interact with the terrain than I did with the level design. On paper, the level designs are good, and there’s always something new and challenging as you progress. Still, the way the cars handle with the terrain and the clunky process of opening the menu to manually restart because the game hasn’t done it for you was a nuisance.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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Hill Climbing Mania Review
  • Gameplay - 6/10
    6/10
  • Graphics - 6/10
    6/10
  • Sound - 5/10
    5/10
  • Replay Value - 5/10
    5/10
User Review
0 (0 votes)
Comments Rating 0 (0 reviews)
Overall
6/10

Summary

Just because it’s a mobile game, doesn’t mean that it can’t translate to the Switch. Despite an attractive presentation and decent display of vehicles to choose from, the physics in the game are frustrating, and there are too many occasions of having to exit a level to start again manually.

Pros

  • Nice graphics.
  • Good level design and variety.
  • Fan-favourite vehicles.

Cons

  • Physics are inconsistent and unnatural.
  • Many of the assets float above the ground.
  • No auto-restart other than when your driver slides out.