The flourishing indie scene is currently a treasure trove for retro-inspired throwbacks - you're guaranteed to find something out there to scratch that nostalgia itch, whether you grew up with pixelated platformers on the SNES, or DOOM-like shooters on the PC. Hotshot Racing from Sumo Digital and Lucky Mountain Games joins this growing crowd and tips its hat to classic arcade racers from the '90s. Set to release this spring, the polygonal-based racer is bursting with vivid colours, and as fans of the genre - we found it provided a turbo-fuelled thrill ride down memory lane.
Victory in Hotshot Racing is hinged on maintaining your speed and stringing together drifts to raise your boost meter. Having a tank filled with boost is handy as it can enable you to rocket past your opponents during those sweat-inducing last stretches towards the finish line. Driving aggressively is also a potent tool within your arsenal as slamming your competitors into the track walls can allow you to sneakily manoeuvre around those tricky corners without having to compromise too much on speed. The racing here kept our pulse-pounding and we found the controls to be buttery-smooth and straightforward to grasp.
The real meat of the experience is the Grand Prix mode - there are four cups present and each is characterised by its own motifs (Coast, Desert, Jungle, and Mountain). Each of these can also be completed in the difficulties of Normal, Hard, and Expert. It may sound as though there would be a lack of diversity with the 16 courses being split into just four categories, but fortunately, we found this not to be the case. As we raced to snatch up each gold trophy we passed tropical beaches, swirling amusement rides, and bat-swarmed ancient temples.
Before even strapping on your seatbelt you need to select between eight racers who represent different nations and have their own kooky backstory. Xing from China is an ex-circus performer who is in the midst of a slightly unconventional career change, and Aston from the UK is a thrill-seeker who has bet his entire fortune on winning the race. Each racer has four vehicles you can select between and these have their own speed, acceleration, and drift stats. There are no licensed vehicles to be seen, but there is a decent selection of vehicle types available from muscle cars, to classic rides, and Formula One-style racers.
Outside the main Grand Prix, there are two other modes that we found ourselves hooked on and cannot wait to try in co-op - these are Drive or Explode, and Cops & Robbers. Drive or Explode is reminiscent of the 1994 classic Speed, as we had to keep our speed above a rapidly increasing threshold, otherwise, our car would take damage and eventually explode. Cops & Robbers reminded us of our time with Need for Speed: Rivals as we took turns playing as both the criminals and the police with the goal of racking up the most cash. As the police, we had to take down criminals for a cash reward and on the opposing side of the law, we earnt money by racing through checkpoints and avoiding being captured.
Hotshot Racing also features a whole wealth of unlockable and purchasable items to incentivise players to stay behind the wheel. Money earnt from completing events can be spent on customisable items such as new skins, colour palettes, and vehicle components. Some exclusive items, however, are locked behind challenges that task you with completing objectives such as drifting a set amount of time with a particular character. These challenges we are sure will keep completionists busy even if the reward is nothing too ground-breaking.
We had a blast playing through Hotshot Racing and will be watching eagle-eyed for a release date to be announced in the future. We found its break-neck racing intense and the Cops & Robbers and Drive or Explode modes helped provide an added sense of variety. Nothing concrete has been announced yet, but be sure to stay tuned for our updated review when Hotshot Racing releases some time this spring on PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One.
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