The visual design associated with the Tron franchise has always been a go-to fan favourite for video games. Between seeing full games use the design as they did in Crackdown all the way to ridiculous sequels like Saints Row 4, it's fair to say that the gaming community are long-time fans of the luminous blues and outrageously futuristic designs. However, has this simple yet intricate style really shown its full potential yet? We think Mercury Race may just have the answer.
Mercury Race is an action-racer that requires players to be able to pilot a sort of hover-car-spaceship as well as shooting various targets around the tracks. The game itself does not have opponent racers but instead pits players against the clock in order to achieve the best time they can, so they can obtain the best medal possible. It's worth stating at this point that Mercury Race is an unconventional racing game, not because it contains shooting mechanics but since it's actually an arcade game. If this seems confusing so far, then we're on the right track.
Before we can explain exactly how Mercury Race is an arcade game, first we have to give a brief explanation of how the game's mechanics work. The racing part is simple, pull the right trigger and you accelerate, pull the left trigger and you hit the brakes, pretty vanilla stuff. However, if you collect the green gems throughout the level or destroy the red enemies found throughout the track, your ship will accelerate even more. This brings us to the shooting mechanics, which are actually even simpler than the racing mechanics. Simply use the right stick to aim and the game does the rest itself, you don't even need to press a button to fire the vehicle's weapon. So far, it probably sounds incredibly easy to play, however as your vehicle reaches faster speeds naturally it becomes much more difficult to control.
This is when the arcade features start to breakthrough. As your vehicle takes more damage either by crashing into the side of the tracks or barricades throughout the levels, the sooner your vehicle will be destroyed, causing an immediate reset to the start of the race. The introduction of this feature gives Mercury Race a unique personality although, as the levels become increasingly difficult, the fact that your high-tech spaceship vehicle thingy has the structural integrity of a damp crumpet will undoubtedly make you wish you just played a round of Mario Kart instead.
This is why we think Mercury Race should be classed as an arcade game more than a pure racer. Few racing games on the market require the player to have the cognitive function of a demi-god that is necessary when trying to shoot and drive. It's like driving down the motorway at 100mph whilst shooting paintballs at every streetlight you pass: it's doomed to fail. Does that mean Mercury Race isn't fun to play? Not at all, it just doesn't feel natural when trying to do so.
So, what actually comes with Mercury Race's $7.99 price tag? A fair amount but still not a lot. You get 15 tracks to play on and eight ships to race with, four of which need to be unlocked as you play. The ships themselves have a few slight differences in the stats they possess but otherwise, it's more of a cosmetic change. You can alter the colour of your ships, which is probably the most expressive yet completely irrelevant feature in the entire game.
As for game modes, there are technically three, although all are played on the vanilla 15 tracks. Two of the game modes are arcade (one being solo and the other being split-screen), which means you choose a track and try for the best time without blowing up before reaching the end. The other is called King of the Galaxy, which is split into three levels. Each level requires players to go through five tracks without going back to the menus at the end, essentially, it's just a tournament mode. The final feature the game comes with is an online leaderboard, so now you can challenge all your friends to see who's the fastest pilot on Mercury.
Truth be told, considering you can buy mobile games with a more expensive price tag, it's not bad value for money. As far as we can tell the most truly impressive part of Mercury Race is that not only is the art style amazing (we mean you genuinely will struggle not to reminisce about the nexus of Tron whilst playing) but the soundtrack is an entirely original 80s-inspired masterpiece. This is another reason on why Mercury Race is an arcade game, if it sounds, looks and plays as though it belongs in an 80s arcade, then it's probably an arcade game, right?
At the end of the day, the best we can say is that if Mercury Race piques your interest at this point, play it in split-screen. Not only will the added competition of an actual opponent bring a bit of life to the game, but it will also remove a lot stale, solo beat the clock mechanics that seem so typical in modern racing games.