Thanks to ZeNfA Productions for the review code
Title: Hot Rod Racer
System: Wii U (eShop)
Release Date: 07/21/2016
Hot Rod Racer looks like an absolute mess. Sure, upon seeing the logo and title screen it may not seem that bad at first, but once you get into your first race the problems with the flat art style become very apparent, mainly due to how badly everything blends together. For example, gray colored rocks can appear on the gray track, making it hard to react in time if one comes out of nowhere, all because of the horrible art style. This combined with lackluster music causes Hot Rod Racer to turn into a game where the presentation leads to an unenjoyable experience.
Both the controls and premise of Hot Rod Racer are very simple, only asking the player to make it as far as possible on a procedurally generated track, dodging obstacles and shooting down cars that get in your way. Unfortunately, right from the very first attempt the issues I mentioned in the presentation section will become apparent, with obstacles that range from mildly irritating such as opposing vehicles or oil to unfair like gaps in the road or those dreaded gray rocks I mentioned earlier. By default, touching ANY hazard will give you a game over, with oil being the only thing that doesn’t outright kill you. (it slows you down instead)
Speaking of oil, oil drums are very important to surviving longer than a minute, as collecting blue ones will refill your fuel gauge, which as you can guess will also kill you if it happens to run out. One big thing to keep in mind is that it’s very easy to accidentally shoot one of these blue drums, which will cause oil to block your path. There are also orange drums that litter the routes, which will explode and kill you if you hit it, of course. Not even the computer controlled cars on the road are immune to these drums, as they would often be the ones to run into those drums, killing themselves while clearing the way for me, leading to some amusing moments.
Now all of these hazards and poor graphic design choices could be forgiven if it wasn’t for the game’s biggest flaw, the one major thing that leads it to being downright cheap and not fun to play; impossible routes. Sometimes while on one of my runs I would come across a route with an indestructible hazard like a rock, but with no way to avoid it, usually because the surrounding area was an instant death trap like a pit or body of water. This means that sometimes if the game doesn’t like you, you can’t win, and your run will end there. By no means in any game like this should the outcome be determined by a bad random generator, as it leads to the difficulty feeling cheap rather than something that you can get better at with practice. Sure, losing will convert your current score into points that unlock miiverse stamps and other cars, but what’s the point if the game starts out as a boring mess to begin with?
In conclusion, Hot Rod Racer was a really poor arcade throwback that I never want to play again. There’s just little content to enjoy, which is a shame considering how the developer incorporated extra features such as Miiverse posting, stamps and online leaderboards in an attempt to add replay value. Unfortunately, if the game itself remains bland and frustrating (even a post-launch update adding an alternate mode doesn’t relieve this) then no amount of extra features will make an unenjoyable game worth playing. If the game was more balanced and less luck based, we could have had a real gem to try out! As it is now though, I can’t really recommend this for anyone, except gluttons for punishment. I give Hot Rod Racer a 3 out of 10.