A generic title if there ever was one, we’ve spent quite a bit of time playing Race Arcade this summer on the PS4 – a game by Iceflake Studios that’s also available on Steam.
Back in my Atari ST days, I played soooo many games like Race Arcade, a top-down racer in the Super Sprint mold. Next to that particular classic, I remember Indy Heat, Badlands, Nitro, the Super Cars games and of course Ivan “Iron Man” Stewart’s Super Off-Road. Before we had proper 3D driving games, these 2D approaches were all the rage – and I spent more times with them than I did with the likes of Lotus and Outrun.
For me, it’s a genre that has endured – as more recently I also enjoyed games like Micro Machines games and Mantis Burn Racing. Race Arcade, however, feels like it was lifted straight from 1990 – it’s kind of like booting up one of those old Atari ST games again through an emulator (or on the real machine, like the one I still have!). Visually, it’s nothing like Mantis Burn and much more like an HD version of a classic top-down racer.
Just looking at the visuals, it’s clear that Race Arcade is geared towards the nostalgic crowd, with a simple control scheme and a basic “earn money and upgrade your vehicle” mechanic. Tracks are short, and a few laps around the track can often be completed in about a minute. Where the game really shines, however, is in multiplayer. Supporting both local and online multiplayer and split screen as well as shared screen modes, you have several ways of engaging against other players.
Without a single player campaign mode to speak off (this is very much arcade-oriented with a basic ‘career’ mode that is just a selection of races), multiplayer is the way to go for Race Arcade. Its simple visual style comes with the benefit of being extremely scalable, which allows for as many as six players to play at once using a single screen (on the PC version – we didn’t get further than four players on PS4).
The game has tons of tracks available to play on, as well as a wide array of vehicles to use. Regardless of the track and vehicle, however, the game pretty much feels the same no matter what you end up choosing. This is partly because the control scheme works best when using two thumbsticks for steering and acceleration/braking, as opposed to the more commonly used shoulder buttons. They’re still an option, but the game feels like it was meant to be a bit like controlling an RC racer.
Race Arcade is a good example of a throwback to an era gone by, but one that has endured as something that’s fun to play – especially with friends. It’s not very ambitious in the visual sense and doesn’t have any interesting new gameplay mechanics to add either, but without that Atari ST in my living room this is the closest I’ll probably get to reliving some of those childhood racing experiences.