Rock ‘n’ Racing lays its cards out on the table with its title. It’s not an allusion to great music- the soundtrack is sparse, bad, and not even rock based- but to nostalgia. This is rock and racing the same way 1980s WWF was rock and wrestling. It evokes an era, and a very specific sub genre.

That sub genre is the single screen top down racer. It’s a breed of racing game that really originates from the Stone Age of racers, where not even arcade hardware could provide scrolling at speed. As racers moved from the 1970s to the 80s, the Indy 500s of the world were replaced with super scaling and driving into the screen; Pole Position and Outrun. Yet toward the end of the decade was a resurgence of the single screen racer as a multiplayer friendly option. Super Sprint and Super Off-Road packed tracks full of colour and detail afforded by contemporary hardware and then fit three or four steering wheels around one cabinet for friends to crowd around and do battle.

rnrbig

In the home, these tended to port better to computers rather than consoles; after all, being crowded around a monitor was better for the experience than squinting at a low resolution TV. It makes sense to bring the single screen racer to the HD age now, on paper at least, though Rock ‘n’ Racing leaves a little to desire in the execution.

The game features a small selection of tracks arranged into different cups. Things start nice and straightforward, but pretty soon you’ll get the criss-crossing tracks and jumps that will guarantee collisions. The cars handle well enough, though the new vehicles you unlock don’t really feel that different from one another. The racing feels a little too plain however. While touches like being able to steer your car in mid air are appreciated from a goofiness standpoint, this is a surprisingly straight laced game. Super Off Road and Super Sprint both featured nitro boosts, oil slicks, water splashes and all sorts of accoutrements Rock ‘n’ Racing lacks despite being clearly inspired by its arcade ancestors.

The no frills racing extends to no frills presentation, and R&R’s visuals lack the bright colours of its predecessors. Night races and darker tracks are a poor match for a game that requires you to see everything on track at once, and it can be difficult to pick your car out from the pack at a glance. There’s also a lack of personality in the visuals, and a little more Where’s Wally like visual humour could have gone a long way here.

Still, the potential for local multiplayer competitive fun is there, and almost a requisite because in single player AI is desperately inconsistent. Racers are either flawless or randomly just stop in the middle of the track and remain motionless for the whole race. A more human led session is instantly more enjoyable, but you’ll still tie the lack of personality on display here.

Rock ‘n’ Racing is a cheap and cheerful affair, with a distinctly budget price tag. It’s concept and the flashes of charm that are there makes for a game you want to go easy on, but it just doesn’t follow through with its concepts enough to really be enjoyable.

KAIJU VERDICT

1/4 Pops: Weak One pop games may be functional, and enjoyable to some, but not the reviewer. Mechanical or conceptual failings make them impossible to recommend.

PS4 version tested

About The Author

Gamer, Educator, Writer of Stuff, wrestler of professionals (sometimes)