Nostalgia. It’s a powerful word, and a very dangerous one when it comes to games. Particularly amongst indie developers, it gets thrown around all the time to describe their ‘wonderful retro nostalgia inspired work’. I don’t like it. “amazing 8 bit graphics” read as “half arsed, would look poor even for a NES game graphics” So it was with some trepidation I approached Horizon Chase Turbo on the Switch by Brazilian developer Aquiris, an old school inspired racer harkening back to the days of Outrun.
I was wrong to be worried, this is a game inspired by the past, not living in it, it’s absolutely fabulous. So what did they get right that so many don’t? Read on to find out.
Firstly, as a game by a small developer they haven’t cut back anything, and I mean anything, it’s huge! The world tour mode, the main bread and butter of the game is massive, over a hundred races over a dozen countries, and every single track is different, with amazing design and beautiful graphics (I’ll go into more detail on this later) every track is a joy to look at and race on, I particularly like the tracks that start at sunset and decend into night as you race.
As well as the world tour mode there is a tournament mode where you can race with friends across multiple tracks Mario Kart style, an endurance mode and one called playground where you complete challenges. So much here to keep you coming back.
Another huge win is how un-lockables work, so often a source of frustration having to grind away to win upgrades the system here is much fairer, you don’t have to win to unlock the next track, top 5 will normally do but if you do win, and manage to pick up all the blue coins on the track in each stage you get a better trophy, and even not doing that, if you win each race in a country you win an extra car.
Cars are also unlocked as your points grow as you play so it’s very fair. The upgrades for the cars is a great system in itself, each country has an upgrade race, place in the top 3, pick an upgrade, and it’s fitted to every car in your garage so you are encouraged to not stick with just one car but use all the ones you have, simple idea but very effective.
It makes Wipeout seem slow!
The graphics, I’m not going to beat about the bush, I love them. The world’s are built in glorious blocky polygons, reminds me of Virtua Racer on the Mega-drive, with bright bold colours that pop from the screen. It’s very clear what all the unlicensed cars are meant to be and they are bright and bold too, it looks fabulous as you tear along at 60fps with no slow-down, and this leads to one of my favourite aspects of the game, the speed.
It makes Wipeout seem slow! Too often you play games and the speedo’ says you’re doing enough to loose your licence but it looks like a drive to the shops with your Grandma. Not here, it’s breathtakingly fast and it makes every race exhilarating, it’s been a long time since I’ve played a game that gives me a feeling like that. Also to note, the menu screens are great, simple to navigate and the world tour mode planet, built in those beautiful blocky polygons is a thing to behold.
The sound is also a joy, the basic car sounds are fine and do differ from each other but the music is king here, again, inspired by the past but each track is amazing, from the synth-wave sounding music you get on a lot of the night tracks to the wonderful 80’s guitar driven tunes as you race across sunny plains, it’s perfect for the game and keeps you in the mood as you race.
But let’s be honest, ‘game-play’ is the most important thing in any game and this is where I’m most pleased, the game feels amazing to play. This is no Gran Turismo sim racer, it’s a ‘don’t brake, chuck in it each corner as fast as possible’ arcade racer and it works better than I imagined. Easy to pick up at first, taking more skill to master as it progresses, the smile never left my face as I played on.
The cars handle perfectly for this type of game, if you slide wide and hit the repeating obstacles on the side of the track (a lovely nod back to games like Outrun and Lotus Turbo Challenge) you never feel like it’s the games fault, it is just that you got the corner wrong or picked the wrong car for the track, and this game has a way of making you want to try again immediately to improve.
It’s funny, as a game designed to feel like a racer from 20 or 30 years ago it’s actually an improvement over so many modern games. Though it doesn’t feel like driving a real car and you know it’s a video game, I don’t care, it makes you feel like a driving and racing god and I only wish other game makers took this approach.
I’m annoyed at myself, I don’t like trying a game and struggling to find fault, I want to come across as objective but I am struggling here. If I was given the choice, a mode where you got to race on roads between normal traffic would of been fun, but that’s just me. There is so much to do here anyway I can’t fault them for that.
I’ll be as bold to say this is the best racing game I’ve played on the system
At the time of writing this game is £17.99 on the Switch store, which is more than I’d normally pay for an indie title but I’ll be honest, this beats a lot of AAA releases by other companies and it’s a bargain at the price (which is only set to get better value over time). The Switch doesn’t have a lot of racing games on it and I’ll be so bold as to say, this is the best racing game I’ve played on the system.
Yes, I stand by that indubitably. If you grew up with games like Outrun and Top Gear you will love it. If you have never played those games and want a fun arcade style ‘pick up and play racer’, you’ll easily fall into it. If you just want to have a quick 5 min blast or a longer play session, it works just as well.
I couldn’t be happier with this game, it’s a lesson to all game makers on how to make a game properly. It works fairly, you don’t need to download expensive extra crap to win, it rewards skill and is an absolute blast to play in the process.
This game is easily 9/10. It’s honestly that good.
Horizon Chase Turbo is released for the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC. Go do your thing!