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Friday, June 15, 2012

Review: Bang Bang Racing (XBLA)

Top down racers are a bit of a rarity these days, and top down racers that are actually good? Perish the thought.
Remember Micro Machines? Those little toy cars were seemingly everywhere years ago (much like their fast talkin' spokesman) and I can't help but think about them in a big way when every time I play Bang Bang Racing. There's so much here that reminds me of those little guys it almost feels like it should be a licensed game. Not the least of things but the way, is that Bang Bang Racing is almost as much fun as those toys from years ago.

Right from the starting pistol, BBR is a really impressive title visually, no question. There is only so much that you can do with the top down view, but developer Digital Reality manages to solidly surprise. It's bright, colourful, and loaded with great little touches. I particularly like that knockout distance blur.

Nitro boostin'
The cars themselves look great (and there are a bunch to unlock as you play through the career mode) and the grandstands are populated by little animated cartoon folk. They kind of look like Mii's now that I think about it, but they fit right in with the stylized look of the game.

As for the courses, there's mostly good news there too. The tracks are well designed and, though a little on the short side, quite devious in their layouts. Although the game is a straightforward racing affair, there are pitfalls scattered across the courses that can easily trip you up.

A quick run through the pit heals all
One thing I noticed is that you can really never build up a sizable lead in Bang Bang Racing, at least- not one that you could call 'safe'. The way the game is designed, there are really no straightaways of any significance and cornering on a lot of the tight turns that pervade the game definitely slow your car down. Most of those pitfalls I mentioned before are placed right at the turns too, which makes things even trickier.

Running across an oil slick (which look awesome when they catch fire BTW) or through some rough gravel as you lean into a turn, or emerge from one, can really knock you back. It's not entirely unusual to find yourself in first, followed by a steep drop to fourth or fifth at some points. You'll definitely catch up though, so not to worry.

Even if your ride takes some heavy damage and can barely move, once you hit the pit (which you just drive through for repairs on the fly) you'll be good to go again.  I can't even count the times that I had an absolutely hideous lap only to come right back and sit at the top of the pack for the next one.

Watch that turn!!
That's one of the things that I liked most about BBR, it keeps you paying attention and on point constantly. Playing a racer that is this competitive (and I honestly never felt like I was being cheated either) in the single player mode is pretty refreshing- not to mention fun.

Control-wise, the game is very solid too, and quite simple to pick up and play. Gas, brake, boost... all the standard stuff is present and accounted for. No, there's nothing revolutionary, but Bang Bang Racing isn't trying to be Forza here. It all works well enough- well, almost all.
One of the admittedly few things I had issue with was the boost system. It feels like the one area of the controls that cheap you out on occasion. Hitting nitro can blast you out of a tough situation, but it can also do absolutely nothing if the car in front of you gets in the way. Instead of knocking them to the side, which I really would've liked to see, you just get kind of... stuck to them... and get absolutely zippo out of the boost you just wasted.

That's gonna leave a mark.
Another thing I didn't like was that it's painfully easy to lose track of your car. I ran into this quite a bit since the game allows for big packs of cars. Making turns and even running through fairly straight sections of track can be more difficult that it should be (or was intended to be) since when the vehicles start clumping, it's really easy to let your eyes drift between them. Thankfully, it's not too hard to get back on track so to speak, but highlighting the players car a little better could have removed the problem all together.

Overall though, there isn't much to complain about with Bang Bang Racing. The graphics are really lively and fun, it controls (mostly) well, and it's a decent challenge. I'm not even really into racing games, and I liked what I saw here- a lot. The game's just a lot of fun to play, and what's not to like about that?

Maybe call it the non-racing fan's racer?

- Jason M



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Review: Bang Bang Racing (XBLA)
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