Let’s address this Formula Retro Racing review early on with a nod to Virtua Racing. If you’re a fan of the classic arcade game, you’ll have a clue of what to expect with this racing title. It’s not a clone, but it’s familiar territory.
Let’s skip on exposition – there is none. It’s a racing game from Repixel8, silly. Hopping into a formula one based vehicle, you’ll hoon around a total of eight circuits where all the stages focus on time. There are no ‘wrong way’ notifications as there’s no time. If you managed to flip your car around and go the opposite direction, you’re not going to finish the race, let alone get a podium finish.
There are three modes on offer in Formula Retro Racing, as well as a free practice to hone your skills. Arcade mode is the bread and butter: race around each track with the aim of finishing first, but also so that you make each checkpoint before the time is up. Eliminator is a mode where you have to complete endless laps until you drop below the 10th position (there are 20 places). Finally, there’s the Grand Prix mode, where you can race with a friend.
Of all the circuits, only five are available as you have to unlock the remainder through points. Said points come from winning races, and you’ll get the most points from the level you attempt. There’s Beginner, Advanced and Expert. While the cars don’t behave any different, in my opinion, you have to less time on the clock and with the Expert level, in particular, can’t afford any mistakes.
As a driving fan, I was able to do pretty well at Formula Retro Racing – what with my Virtua Racing training from yesteryear. The cars handle incredibly well, and it’s arcade perfect in that respect. I preferred to drive in the first-person perspective (there are three views, the other two being chase cams), but in this view couldn’t help but notice how bouncy the cars appear and that they don’t feel connected to the road. It’s a cosmetic thing, really. As stated, the handling is fantastic.
On the other side of the fence, there’s the collision. Now, this isn’t like how infuriating Hotshot Racing was where AI would crash into you and spin you out, but the cars here are aggressive, and due to a damage meter, it’s in your interest to avoid any contact. After a good amount of races without maxing out the damage, the inevitable happened, and I totalled the car. However, instead of a game over, you respawn. No big deal, you may think, but in the more difficult levels, that will signal a game over as there’s no way to recover from it.
It doesn’t spoil it, but because of the risk of a collision, you end up taking unorthodox racing lines and perhaps don’t get the best times as a result. That said, smashing into the back of a car and taking them out of the race was fun. What a hypocrite. This fear of being touched (steady) is more relevant in the Eliminator Races, as, through each lap, the opponents get faster to the point where you can’t keep up. A crash once again indicates an imminent end to your run.
Visually the low poly presentation in Formula Retro Racing is spot on. There’s nothing spectacular about it, but it does the job and can be nostalgic for a new game. The soundtrack, on the other hand… I hated it. Transplanted onto a platform game or party title, and I’d have liked it, but it just felt utterly out of place here. It was so distracting that Spotify got a bit of attention on the sly. Engine sounds are great and all, but you’re almost constantly flat out, so it sounds a little like a chicken chaser flirting with a hairdryer. It\s not bad; it’s just… meh.
Still, Formula Retro Racing gameplay is spot on for an arcade racer. With some tweaks to the aggressive AI, this one is worth being on repeat, albeit with the music turned down. The circuits are pretty short, and there’s only one vehicle available in 20 different shades, but as an arcade racer, it does the job. In fairness, while it lacks Sega Ages replay features and the fond memories, I’d play this over Virtua Racing, given a choice.