[Review] Music Racer – Nintendo Switch

Written by Stephen Hunter
  • Developer: Sometimes You
  • Publisher: Sometimes You
  • Release Date: 29/01/2020
  • Price: £6.29 / $6.99
  • Review code provided by Sometimes You

FEEL THE RHYTHM?

I have absolutely no shame in saying I love a rhythm game! I was in my early teens when the guitar hero craze was in its full hype, and I was hooked. So, needless to say I was little excited to get my hands on another Switch rhythm game in Music Racer. Especially after I recently enjoyed the fantastic and well received ‘Thumper’. However, to my disappointment I found that this is not really a rhythm game. I’m not entirely sure what it is.

FEEL THE BEAT?

The gameplay is minimal to say the least. Depending on what course you’re playing there will be between three and five lanes. Then the player will need to navigate their car, bike, raven (yes, there is a raven, I recommend it) between these lanes to pick up white markers, and avoid obstacles. Do this until the song you’ve selected has finished, then pick another song. Standard rhythm game, right? Well, not exactly. The reason I say this is not really a rhythm game is because these white markers you’re picking up, aren’t in time with the music. Like nowhere near in time. This means your essentially listening to a dance track whilst collecting white markers and avoiding obstacles. That’s the game, in a nutshell. But even that isn’t executed very well unfortunately.

Something I both love and hate about this game is that the course you’re on isn’t static like most rhythm games. The track will bend, go uphill, and dropdown. The problem is when it’s doing this, you cannot see either the white markers or the obstacles as you come over the hills, or come racing round a bend. It leads to you missing so many markers, and unfairly crashing into objects, as it leaves you no time to react at all. This at the same time though doesn’t really matter, as unlike other rhythm games, missing markers, or hitting obstacles doesn’t really have a consequence.

The white markers you collect continue to create a combo regardless of if you miss any. You only break the combo by hitting an obstacle. This doesn’t matter though, as it’s not the combo you want or need. Only the overall number of white markers matters, as they convert into currency to buy more vehicles, or other courses. This only dilutes the gameplay even further.

PRESENTATION OVER PLAYABILITY

Whilst the gameplay is almost none existent, there has clearly been a lot of work put into the gameplay presentation. The game has a neon, retro wave aesthetic throughout, which really works for the goal the developers set to achieve; a unique rhythm game based around the dance/electronic genre of music. All the courses look fantastic, the neon colours really pop and it’s almost like driving/flying through an 80s’ synth-pop music video but with modern HD picture. The designs are really creative, and both the track itself and the environment react to the music.

Everyone knows that dance and electronic music revolves around build ups and drops. The way the game works around these parts of the songs is fantastic. In the moments where the songs are stripped back, the backgrounds will become almost bare, like you’re driving on a lonely dirt road through a sunset. Then as the build ups start, there will gradually be more shapes added into the background, and the colours around you will start to switch in time with the music, then as the song drops into its big chorus, you will speed up significantly, and all the colours really start to go crazy as it adds in more shapes and designs into the background for you to zoom past. It’s almost like driving through the middle of a rave. The fact that the road you’re on is also reflective, showing all these shapes and colours right underneath the player as well as all around them, makes it feel like you’re right in the centre of this euphoria.

If they got the gameplay right, these parts could really feel really satisfying as you dodged between lanes and around obstacles at blinding speed, all whilst keeping rhythm. It’s such a huge shame they didn’t pull it off.

CAN’T DANCE? DON’T DANCE

Along with the gameplay, there are a few further issues with the game. To begin with, there are only twenty-three songs on this game, and only by three artists (one of those artists only has one song too). As you can imagine, this leaves the game feeling a bit repetitive early on. I eventually figured out as well that each artist creates a particular feel. The first artist is your more mainstream sounding dance/electronic artist, with the slow builds and big drops. Whereas the other artist is more of the laidback dance genre where it stays fairly slow throughout. The other artist featured is like the happy medium between the two sounds. One of the bigger issues about this though, is that when it comes to the song selection screen, there is no preview of the track! So, every time you’ll be going the song completely blind, and if you happen to find a song you like, you better have remembered the name of it.

The white markers you’re collecting throughout the track are also a bit of an annoyance. Remember how I said they’re completely out of time with the track? Well when you collect them, they emit a very low and soft kick drum sound, you can barely hear it in the choruses, but in the slower and build up parts, hearing this soft kick drum completely out of time with the track is very distracting. Most of the gameplay could be fixed if they just put these white markers in time with the kick and snare!

The four game modes are a little lacking as well. There’s standard, zen, hard, and cinematic. Standard is the gameplay mode I’ve been talking about in the gameplay, and the one I’d recommend honestly. There isn’t much difference with the others. Zen (also known as easy) just takes the obstacles out the game, which just makes the gameplay feel even less involved. Hard would be better described as annoying mode. It doesn’t actually increase the difficulty, I said earlier about how the obstacles were unfair as you can’t really see them coming at times but they have no consequence. In hard mode hitting an obstacle is an automatic fail of the song. It feels like a lazy attempt making this one annoyance a whole mode. Now I don’t know if this was just me, but I was immediately intrigued by cinematic mode, I wanted to know how it was going to make this gameplay style that’s already not really working, and somehow make it cinematic. Well it doesn’t. Cinematic mode removes the gameplay, and simply lets you listen to the song you chose whilst watching your choice of vehicle (or falcon) go around the course you chose at fancy angles. It was almost like having a cooler version of the old windows media player. Cinematic mode is now known as, pointless mode.

Then finally we have the menus. Whilst their presentation style fits the game somewhat, the way their presented to the player is a bit hit and miss. The vehicle select screen is ok, but navigating it can be a bit fiddly, the bigger issue I have is with the course selection screen. Whilst both have unlockable vehicles or courses respectively, you can clearly see what you’re buying with the vehicles. The courses however are presented in a 3D image that somewhat replicates the course your buying. You won’t really have a full idea of what you’re getting until you use your in-game currency. Adding previews to both the courses, and the music tracks would go a long way.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Music Racer has the potential to be a fantastic rhythm game, if only they remembered to add the game into it. Its presentation is fantastic, and definitely the highlight of the game, you can see the clear amount of effort they put into it. But this is a game, and there really isn’t much of one to talk about here. It really is a shame, but as it stands, I can’t recommend it. You could get the same amount of enjoyment from this game by watching someone play it on Youtube, as you could playing it yourself. It needs better gameplay, and more songs desperately.

Pros

  • Fantastic gameplay visuals

Cons

  • Out of sync gameplay
  • Lack of artists and tracks
  • Needless game modes

Verdict
A visually stunning game, but severely lacks on the gameplay front.
2/5

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