It always hurts to see potential wasted, especially in the form of a video game. This is something in your hands, something you are meant to control, but that doesn’t put you in control. You may see these opportunities for a better overall package, but there isn’t anything you can do about it. Whether it is a lack of budget, concept, or otherwise, someone worked on the piece of media you are playing, and instead of forcing through it to feel worse about it, you can just choose to stop playing. That was my end result with Music Racer, the arcade styled rhythm game from SometimesYou.
A major, noticeable issue that ripples down my overall experience with the game is that the Switch version is stripped of a key gimmick that being the ability to play your own, local music tracks in game. Music Racer, by the titles name, is just that. You drive along very flashy, neon lit tracks, to a variety of music in an assortment of vehicles. While that sounds great in theory, the issue on Switch is that it is severely lacking any sort of finesse or replayability for skill or purpose. See, in the mobile or PC versions, playing to the beat of your own favorite songs may make the lack of finesse less noticeable, because you are probably bobbing your head and singing along to something familiar. On the Switch version, I am going in expecting a rhythm game, one where levels are meticulously made to challenge you, ones that are made to be replayed over and over until you get it down, tracking your score and giving you noticeable merits. This game though, is incredibly unrewarding and still boasts that “The racetrack is created in real time based on the game's music tracks”, which should be null here because you are picking songs from a pre-determined setlist. So, I don’t need tracks created, I want tracks that have a set pattern, something for me to challenge myself against, and while these may have a set pattern, it doesn’t feel hand crafted, but rather comes off as clunky.
There are more issues at hand, and I am mostly looking at the lack of intuitiveness here. The menu and functionality within it are so non-descript and vague. Songs do not preview before picking them, your score seems to be worthless outside of earning you credit to unlock new cars and themes, and pressing “B” after pausing in game actually boots you back to the main menu without warning, which is almost a reflex for most gamers as a common function to get you out of the pause screen instead. It is a very bizarre set up. I understand that the Steam and mobile options might avoid previewing songs due to the nature of importing songs that the developer and publisher do not own, but again, the Switch version should have been something more than a stripped down, formatted version of the existing.
Visually, the game actually looks pretty good, especially some of the levels. However, the contrasts on the Switch version are awful, as are some of the screen shake effects. Playing a game of this genre makes me want to hit every “beat” so to speak (the white tiles you collect for points), but it is hard to do when the color white is so foggy and hard to track, as well as when winding roads quite literally block your view, making it hard to anticipate upcoming “beats”. These problems make enjoying the game even harder, putting my journey to enjoy the title at the bottom of a hill.
I actually enjoyed the music present, I just wish once more that I had the ability to preview the songs prior to starting up a track. I would also highly suggest turning off the noise that is set to ring each time you pass a white tile, as it throws off the vibe of the track and can actually make everything sound a bit off beat.
There are several modes, from the normal mode where hitting pillars slows you down and stops your combo, to zen and hard which are essentially the easier and more difficult versions where there are either no pillars or deadly pillars. There is also cinematic mode, which is the only way I found myself enjoying this game. That is right, I had more fun not playing this game then I did being actively involved with it. As it stands, I can only recommend this game as a sort of “live” music player, and even then, the other versions will offer this with the ability to play songs you know and love, once again putting the Switch port at the bottom of the pile. Music Racer is neither a racer, nor is it a refined rhythm game. Once it loses its gimmick, it runs on “E” just to be left stranded on a street as better options pass on by in the fast lane.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final SCORE: 5/10
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