It seems like every day the 3DS eShop is graced by another interesting or quirky budget title that bolsters its entire catalogue of games. Enjoy Gaming’s Race to the Line is no exception to this rule, as the traditional-style racer manages to pack some solid gameplay and visuals into a small but endearing package. While Race to the Line, with its ridiculously low price point and modest amount of content, is clearly not striving to compete with big-budget mainstream fare, it wins a checkered flag for focusing on the small stuff.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of Race to the Line is the surprising amount of detail in its different settings that range from Europe to Asia to Africa. From the blistering heat of the desert to the mellow mood of a night-time backwoods country scene, players can almost feel the distinct atmosphere present at each track — hot air balloons take off in the distance, rolling hills illuminate a mountain countryside. Unfortunately, the graphical engine often causes distant backgrounds to fade in only when a player’s car drives closer to them, but once appreciated, it’s easy to tell that these scenes were lovingly rendered.
Experienced gamers may also feel that they are granted a bit too much time with which to appreciate all that detail, however, as Race to the Line moves frighteningly slow to be considered a serious racing game. While the later “Challenge” levels grant players the ability to use faster sports cars, these upgrades don’t help as much as they should, and even in these advanced stages, Race to the Line proves to be a noticeably slow game that is distinctly lacking in difficulty. In many instances, once first place is attained, things will have to go drastically wrong in order to fall into second.
A large factor contributing to the speed problem is the option to change your driver’s perspective. Three different viewpoints are provided to players: an overhead-behind 3rd-person perspective, a top-of-the-hood close-up, or a full 1st-person driver’s seat view. Sadly, with the exception of the very start of a race, when it’s necessary to accurately gauge your car’s distance from the competition, the 3rd-person option is all but useless. Bear in mind, this comes from a reviewer who will opt for a 3rd-person gaming experience in over 99% of cases. Strangely, Race to the Line’s 3rd-person runs far slower than the other two modes (and it isn’t just an illusion caused by distance from the road), but if you’re excited by the speed at which your grandmother zooms to the local grocer in her Cadillac DTS, by all means go with this option.
Despite the snail’s pace — less troublesome away from 3rd-person — that may infuriate veteran gamers, Race to the Line’s smooth, accurate gameplay make it a breeze to cruise along and enjoy the scenery. Left and Right turn movements on the circle pad are a bit on the sensitive side, but once players get accustomed to the controls, this reveals itself to be a fluid, distinct racing game with its own casual style. The various types of cars control differently and come with their own unique engine sounds and paint jobs, which makes for a lot of variety a small game.
While no one should expect a wealth of content from such a low-budget title, Enjoy Gaming has done a poor job of organizing what little content did make it into Race to the Line. Each difficulty level is composed of a small handful of stages, while a cup (the standard gold, silver, and bronze kind) can be won in each stage. However, the stages consist of only two tracks each, which makes winning a gold cup a rather meagre accomplishment. With only three stages and three cars per difficulty level, two tracks per stage, and a few of the tracks repeating in the various modes, organizing all of the tracks into one, much larger circuit could have masked the dearth of content. Instead, an already elementary game caters even further to less enthusiastic gamers by organizing a somewhat pithy amount of content into brief, easy-to-beat stages.
Lastly, although Race to the Line’s visual aesthetic is a smashing success, the same cannot be said about its music, which constitutes a grand total of about two tracks — one over all of the menus, and one over all of the courses. Cheesy, midi backbeats and dull, processed guitars comprise a musical score that is repetitive, bland, and does next to nothing to reflect the beauty in the graphical content. Of course, corners must be cut in a low-budget game, but such a wretched soundtrack is inexcusable, especially when more ingenuity in this area could have truly enhanced the striking visuals.
Although Race to the Line is a bit of a mixed bag, its combination of surprisingly crisp, lush scenery, along with reasonable gameplay and controls, make it an overall success with a few shortcomings. The game’s difficulty level (and especially its speed) leaves much to be desired, meaning veteran gamers will likely become frustrated with the lack of challenge presented by the courses, even in later levels. Poor music and a small amount of content round out the game’s problems, but anyone cruising the 3DS eShop for a fun, casual racer with plenty of eye candy could certainly do worse than Race to the Line.