Art of Rally Switch Review: Golden

Time to get back in the seat and hit the gravel as Art of Rally finds itself on the Switch - arguably the best platform for this zen-like racer.

We have our Golden Age for most eras, and Art of Rally captures it for the sport. As a fan of motorsports, I’m not that into modern rallying as much the days the Cosworth graced the tracks, along with the Delta and Impreza WRX. 

The latest iteration of Funselektor’s title now reaches the Switch and could be considered the best version due to the portable aspect, but beware: the visuals and framerate have taken a slight hit, as has the loading times. But first…

Art of Rally is a minimalist rally game that covers the best tracks all over the globe. This isn’t akin to WRC 9 for the details, but it’s within the same league in terms of gameplay, despite being very… different. The visuals are stripped back for a start, and the focus is solely on the driving experience.

Art Of Rally Switch Review

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a fun little arcade racer – it’s far from that, and in reality, it will put off a lot of casual players if they’re expecting an easy ride. It’s realistic in the sense that if you drive full speed into a corner, you will spin out or crash, adding seconds to your overall time – the worst-case scenario. Actually, not finishing is probably worse.

Art of Rally Review Switch - Nice rear
Nice rear. Source: Nintendo

Art of Rally Switch applies the minimalist approach, and that applies to the customisable HUD. The most important thing to note is your time in the top right of the screen and the stage progression on the left. If having a bad run, it’s possible to restart a stage multiple times, but at the sacrifice of unlocking cars or liveries. In short, it’s not until the end of a race you’ll know how good it was, so you have to have that blind faith and push yourself.

I want to say that each car handles differently, but I tended to stick with the same old models whenever I could. Each year will feature several rallies consisting of multiple stages. It’s a pretty big game, and while you’ll likely take a few minutes or so per stage, playing the game does feel like a season-long event, but with decent pacing. 

Every Day’s A Learning Day

One of the greatest aspects of Art of Rally, other than the gorgeous presentation (music included), is progression. Each difficulty setting is perfectly tweaked. Easy is exactly that and gives you far too much room to make mistakes. Novice is a good starting position, then working your way up to Normal, the more demanding levels. Do note that the game doesn’t get any easier in handling, but the times to finish are a bit more flexible.

Art of Rally Review Switch - Snow joke
Snow joke. Source: Nintendo

If you’re struggling with the handling, it’s possible to adjust quite a range of parameters that genuinely make the car respond differently. I would often adjust the settings once or twice – typically the accelerator sensitivity, then learn how the vehicle handles rather than fart-arse with the sensitivity as there was too much faffing. It’s an excellent feature, though and will make a difference if you’re having a hard time.

The new area, Kenya, is beautiful and comes with the Art of Rally Switch edition on launch, but Finland has to be my favourite with its winding roads. The camera perspective works great here using the cinematic chase viewpoints. However, this was the hardest element for me – the camera angles – as first-person is my preferred position (that’s what she said, dad joke #42). It takes some getting used to, and it’s harder to get competent with sliding around corners compared to other rally games, though it doesn’t have the same precision as Absolute Drift – which I found a tad trickier.

Rally Good

There are many vehicles to choose from, like the PC version before it, but you have to unlock them one by one and finish with as few restarts as possible. Besides the career, extras include free roam to collect letters to spell out ‘Rally’, cassettes and the best locations to take a photo. The photo mode in the game is fantastic too, and if you’re a gaming selfie-type, you’ll love the filters. There are also a time attack, custom rally and online events.

Art of Rally Review Switch - Lighthouse Family
Lighthouse Family. Source: Nintendo

I often struggle to do reviews for the games I love in fear of paying too much lip service, but Art of Rally is easily one of my favourite driving games ever, and this portable version is spot-on. As indicated earlier, it’s not without some issues, and if you’re the impatient type, the loading times can drag. They didn’t bother me, but they can get quite lengthy between each stage. Additionally, I ran into quite a few scenarios where the framerate would jump erratically, and the camera playing catchup would go through the car.

Still, the good points far outweigh the technical issues, and the Art of Rally Switch version’s greatest asset is portability. I played this 100% in handheld EVERYWHERE. Though I wouldn’t want to use the official Joy-cons (I use the Hori Split Pad Pro), playing in this mode is perfect. Except for quality games like Unavowed, I prefer pick up and play games on the Switch in handheld, usually because of the distractions from the family. It’s not ideal to have to pause mid-race, then unpausing to crashing into a sign, but I love having Art of Rally on the go. Stuff the hot chocolate before bedtime; how about hitting some dirt? 

Aside from the visuals a few stutters with frame rates, this is quite my favourite driving game once more.

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