Bang Bang Racing Xbox 360 Review
Digital Reality, the fine folks behind the wonderfully satisfying shoot ‘em up Sine Mora, has graced us with their take on the top-down arcade racer…with style. Recently ported over from the mobile platform (it was originally released on Android-based devices in 2011), Bang Bang Racing has been thrust back onto the console. Taking more than a few cues from a few golden gaming classics, does Bang Bang Racing have what it takes?
When I was a child, Micro Machines on the Megadrive was a game that took up plenty of my childhood. I remember sitting there for hours with my friends playing the game with glee, fury, and a plethora of other emotions over the course of what would always be tense gaming encounters with my closest friends. Then after the PS1 generation it seemed as though the top-down racer was doomed to obsolescence. Sure there was the likes of Calling All Cars and PixelJunk Racers on PSN, but those two games did not have the same gravitational pull and allure of the likes of Micro Machines - and for the golden-oldies out there, R.C. Pro-Am on the NES. Not until Bang Bang Racing.
Upon loading the game, you are treated to a functional but by no means spectacular title screen, with game menu music that immediately grates and requires the surround sound setup up to be dialled down a few notches. So far it’s not going so well, but bear with me. Once you bypass the forgettable background music (BGM), you are given the choice of a variety of gaming modes: Career, Championship, Time Trial and Free Play. In Championship mode, there are four classes of racing to work through: N-Dura, Evo GT, Protech and Apex. 20 vehicles can be unlocked in this game mode. The majority of your game time will depend on how you choose to spend it, with the unlockables obtained in the single player modes carrying over to the local multiplayer portions of the game. Yes, local multiplayer. Sadly, online multiplayer has been overlooked for this release and is one of only a few negatives I have with the game. However, you can compare your progress with friends and also against the global leaderboards.
Graphically the game is a next-gen version of Micro Machines and R.C. Pro-Am fused with Super Off-Road. The game isn’t exactly a top-down racer per se. You are instead given the choice of two camera angles, which gives what some would find a confusing and nauseating perspective of the car as the camera flits about with each turn. For me on a 42” screen it was okay for the most part, but I did have a few gripes with some of the barrier placements that due to the ever-adjusting camera often disorientated when turning corners at speed. This resulted in me bumping into walls, which in a game requiring such deft turning at all times can hinder rather than further the fun-having experience. Thankfully, the Fixed camera option reduced much of my issues. It still follows the car, but doesn’t change the perspective.
Visually, the colours are both vibrant and beautiful, with a wonderful colour palette that, at moments, looks quite fantastic; more so when you consider the game’s mobile roots. The car designs are simple, effective and more than do the job, especially when it comes to relaying to the player how much car damage they have at all times (which a quick pit stop can always repair anyway).
Track design is like a Scaletrix fan’s wet dream. Digital Reality has visualised the eight tracks (also playable in reverse) in a cartoon-like and impressive approach, with intriguing road design applying a totally arcade feel to your typical racing tracks. Set in various exotic locales such as snow, sand and even a Daytona-esque track, each track is topped off with shortcuts and cunning placement of track obstacles such as sand traps, oil barrels and more. The backgrounds look alive with moving scenery and mildly bobbing crowds that add to the character of the game. One of the simple, yet smile-inducing elements of the design is the fireworks display as the winner crosses the finishing line, which really adds to the congratulatory tone for an efficient and well-driven race.
Gameplay-wise, the game really is quite fantastic at times. The twitch-response steering of the cars and the instantly familiar controls allow gamers to instantly jump into a game and feel right at home…to a degree. This is when the nostalgia trip of old kicks in, and the feeling of thrashing a NOS-powered car around a fictitious track is without a doubt an absolute riot.
There are moments that can frustrate, such as the rubber-banding elements of the game where computer-controlled cars can quickly catch up unless you power boost your way through most of the course. This is the case even when your cornering and braking is pretty much perfect. This can be quite agitating at times especially when you are playing the Career Mode and in an Elimination Race, but I suppose this is merely for added tension. It can be chafing when you’ve led a race for miles only to get taken out by an unfairly overpowered car on the final corner and lose a vital position. However, it’s only a game, and Bang Bang Racing gives you the opportunity to quickly restart should you make an error. It’s a shame Lewis Hamilton does not have the same ability to do so in the F1.
A top-down racing game of the like which will be familiar from older gamers to younger mobile gamers, Bang Bang Racing brings back that wonderfully tight, well-crafted and nostalgic arcade racing experience to consoles and PCs (BBR has been released on Steam, PSN and XBLA). Would I recommend the game? Yes, I would. It is fun, fast, frantic, chaotic, rewarding when played in a group and infuriating. So pretty much all the ingredients for a good old-fashioned night in around the TV with some like-minded buddies. It’s a shame online wasn’t included and not as much effort was made in the game’s menu presentation, but for such a low price point, it is definitely worth a purchase.