Release Date: June 28th 2019
Price as of Article: $9.99, £9.99
Download size: 582 MB
A budget rally title with a distinctive cel-shaded aesthetic, does Rally Rock ‘N Racing make the podium, or is it destined for the scrap heap? Let’s find out…
As an arcade-style rally title, there’s no story here. While some games in this genre offer career modes (see V-Rally 4), Rally Rock ‘N Racing offers nothing as grand as that. It’s bare bones to say the least – there are three Championships of increasing difficulty, a Time Trial mode, and a World Rally Cup, which is essentially one long course that takes you through a variety of different environments.
The one thing that a rally title lives and dies by is the handling of the vehicles; even if every other aspect of the overall package is somewhat lacking, a fun and engaging vehicle handling model can save a game. Sadly, Rally Rock ‘N Racing stalls on the start line immediately in this respect. Vehicles which are meant to be nimble, high performance rally cars have the turning circle of an articulated truck, and the steering reaction of a double decker bus. It’s almost impossible to get through turns or around corners without slowing to a crawl, and even then you’re likely to be drawn towards the crash barriers by some magnetic force. It doesn’t seem to matter which car you choose, they all handle horribly and the parameters of the game’s physics engine seems to change on the fly. This becomes apparent when playing in the Championship mode against other AI vehicles. In some cases, your car has infinite mass and can pile through AI without so much as a degree of alteration in course; other times, the opposition will nudge you and send your car smashing into a barrier. Liberal use of the handbrake is pretty much required to get around even the most gradual of curves in the road (which for some reason initiates the brake lights), while pretty much all of the skills you have acquired in other rally games are completely thrown out of the window.
In terms of things to do, Rally Rock ‘N Racing has the usual mix of Time Trial (where you try to get the best time on any of the unlocked circuits), a Championship, and a World Rally Cup. Championship sets you the task of racing in three races against three AI cars, where you accrue points depending on your finishing position. Earn enough to finish at the top of the pile at the end of race three and you unlock the next difficulty and a new vehicle. Repeat this three times and you’ve pretty much seen everything there is to see in Championship mode. What makes this a more arduous task than it may first appear, is the combination of cheating AI competitors who never seem to have to slow down to go around corners; painfully bad vehicle handling which means you have to slow down to a crawl to go around corners; and a bunch of glitches that will attempt to hamper your progress at every opportunity. For example, when driving over a ramp, you’ll sometimes hit an invisible barrier that will stop your car dead in mid air, or send you spiraling out of control. If you happen to be in the lead when this happens, the AI will speed past and leave you in last place; if you’re already in last place then the AI’s lead will increase even further leaving you with no chance of catching them up.
Perhaps the strangest mode of play is the World Rally Cup, which isn’t really a cup of any sort; but instead is one long course that can take as long as 8 – 10 minutes to complete. It’s just you against the clock as you attempt to reach the next checkpoint, and while the ‘theme’ of the track changes (from day to night, and from green hills to snowy mountains to dry desert), none of this has any effect on the vehicle handling – the track texture may change from asphalt to sand or snow, but it really makes no difference. Coupled with the fact that the surface of the road is never anything but perfectly flat, it makes for an incredibly dull experience.
The arcade style leanings of Rally Rock N Racing are pretty clear to see, but it really does lag behind the competition in terms of gameplay. There is no visible damage, no way to tinker with handling or car characteristics, and while you wouldn’t really expect Dirt Rally style customisation options, an ability to change steering sensitivity or tyre types would have been welcome. As it is, you get none of this, and are just stuck with a selection of fake vehicles (modelled after real cars) with stats that are incorrectly spelled on the vehicle select screen, and which make no difference to performance or handling characteristics.
Audio is mixed in terms of quality. The music can be quite good at times – the guitar rock soundtrack does suit the arcade-style racing, and the vehicle effects are passable if you can hear them over the music. Crashes and bangs all present themselves as you’d expect. The one aspect that is quite jarring however, is the announcer. He seems to switch between an American and English accent at will and just repeats the same odd phrases throughout the races. In the World Rally Cup mode, he does act like a co-driver, calling out upcoming turns; but in the Championship mode he’s absent, except for when randomly exclaiming that the race is ‘on fire’ (hint: it isn’t).
Visuals & Performance
The visuals are undoubtedly the strongest component of the Rally Rock N Racing package. Detail levels aren’t especially high, but the pseudo cel-shaded look of the world and vehicles is an interesting aesthetic decision. Pretty much everything is given a vague cartoony look, with a thin black outline making proceedings look like something out of a comic book. There are numerous lighting effects, such as when the vehicles change gear and flames burst from exhaust pipes; or when you race through tunnels or in night time tracks and you’re treated to some rather nice headlight effects. That said, the budget roots of Rally Rock N Racing do shine through occasionally such as when the frame rate takes a tumble due to several cars all jostling onscreen at the same time; or when in split-screen multiplayer races the frame rate appears to dip into single digits at times (there’s no online multiplayer to speak of, it’s worth noting). There are some odd graphical quirks that should be noted too, such as the rearview mirror omitting the time of day, and vehicles occasionally emitting sparks from random parts of their chassis as if they were being hit by an invisible opponent.
Strangely, Rally Rock ‘N Racing appears to play slightly better in handheld mode than when docked. The experience is almost identical in every respect, apart from one – in docked, the sky seems to draw itself away from the camera in a really strange way, making everything look like a bizarre ‘focus pull’ or ‘trombone shot.’ It’s actually quite hard to describe, but those with a knowledge of camera techniques will know exactly what I mean. The effect is quite subtle and almost indiscernible in handheld, but when the game is being displayed on a large TV it is instantly noticeable.
Overall, EnjoyUp Games has managed to produce a fairly decent looking game here, but as mentioned earlier you can’t help but feel that the tracks are just made up of reused assets that have been plonked down on a grid, with only the background theme changing up the type of track. Identikit is a perfect way to describe the circuits on offer, and after a while boredom and overfamiliarity inevitably set in.
Rally Rock ‘N Racing is a budget title, and this is clearly reflected in the price. However, for Switch owners who are desperate for more rally action after the disappointing V-Rally 4 port, this isn’t really a viable alternative. There are way too many bugs and the handling model falls way short of what should be expected in a title with the word ‘rally in its title. The number of play modes and tracks is also a little disappointing, and a complete lack of online functionality is a missed opportunity.
4-player split screen
Poor vehicle handling
Tracks are boring
No online options whatsoever