Bang Bang Racing is a game that’s sure to tweak the nostalgia lobes. Each generation of gamers seem to have a similar little gem stored away. For some they’ll travel back to the time of the Micro Machine and the joy of racing along a kitchen worktop or pool table or, if you’re slightly older, like myself, the top down racing genre brings memories of the magnificent Super Sprint flooding back.
And when memories as rich as those come pouring in it’s with undiluted excitement that I approach this Digital Reality and Playbox release for the Xbox LIVE Arcade.
But, as I remove the drivers helmet and walk shoulders slumped from the pit lane of Bang Bang Racing the only feelings washing over me are ones of disappointment and regret.
The regret stems from allowing myself, once again, to believe that finally this current crop of consoles might finally have a top-down racing game to stand shoulder to shoulder with it’s forefathers. The disappointment, well, obviously that goes without saying. Spend some time yourself with the game and you’ll know what I mean.
Yet it all started so promisingly.
Upon launching the game I was greeted with a cheery menu screen, vibrant, colourful graphics and unintrusive music. Straight into career mode and initial thoughts were ones of pleasure. The racing felt slick, the car was handling really well and the camera, although taking a moment to get used to, seemed to have all angles covered.
The opening level races, which combine basic racing, reverse track racing, elimination races and time-trials came and went in no time. Only one race required me to re-run to get the top podium spot all the others were largely a breeze, which as we know isn’t necessarily a good thing. Thankfully the challenge stepped up slightly as I ventured into the ranks of level 2 racing. But, and here’s where this game hits the speedbumps, by this, relatively short amount of time, I was already feeling underwhelmed and, to be quite frank, very bored.
The hopes that I’d harboured for Bang Bang Racing had long since sailed. The racing had quickly become stale and the urge to push the off button was now incessant.
Here are the problems as I see them. Firstly there’s far, far too little variety to each race. Different modes are present and correct but they don’t really change the gameplay to any noticeable extent. There are no power-ups along the way, instead we merely have the nitro boost facility and this means even the shorter races become a very bland shade of beige within a couple of laps.
Next up is the multiplayer situation. We have been treated to some (up to) 4 player, split-screen racing but, if this generation will be known for anything it’ll most likely be that it’s the age when online gaming exploded and the fact that Bang Bang Racing comes free from such play is a huge missed opportunity. I feel personally that if I’d had the chance to take my (lack of) skill onto the global stage and face off against real-life players this game could have been great.
Another problem I found is with the cars themselves. It’s not that they don’t handle well, because they do, it’s just that winning races unlocks more cars yet racing in the next car up feels exactly the same as racing in the previous one, sure one may have extra nitro or better handling but honestly, when racing, you won’t even be aware it’s a different car and this basically makes the whole unlockable car feature a completely redundant one.
And finally is that nostalgia thing. Unless you’re in the unfortunate position that this will be your first taste of the top-down racing genre then you’ve already had far more fulfilling experiences elsewhere. This genre was being done with more style, flair and imagination 20 years ago.
Bang Bang Racing does half of what it says on the tin. It is a racer, that’s something I can’t argue with. In fact it’s a neatly polished racer, it looks good and races well it’s just that, in a Formula 1 style, the excitement is all over after the first corner. The other half of the tin, the bit that says Bang Bang well, that’s something that simply isn’t there, if there’s one thing this title lacks it is having some bang. Pop Splutter Racing may have been more apt.
Kudos to me though for getting to the end of this review without mentioning Chitty Chitty Bang Bang….apart from there of course.