Review: VectorRacing (3DS eShop)

Lines and lines and lines and lines and lines!

There's an episode of Family Guy in which Peter Griffin attends a production of Uncle Vanya. Partway through the play he stands up, bored out of his mind, and shouts, "for crying out loud, somebody throw a pie!" That's more or less how we felt playing VectorRacing.

VectorRacing is the epic tale of...nah, we're pulling your leg. There's no story; you drive in circles around a track. While simple racing games can be fun — indeed, often are — there's a distinct lack of depth and substance to VectorRacing which makes it difficult to justify its asking price.

The game consists of 12 tracks, spread out over three categories. You can also set the level of difficulty, which defines how aggressively the opposition behaves. So far, so good.

However the tracks don't feel particularly distinct from one another, and the game's minimalist approach to visuals contributes to that problem. We happen to like the way this game looks visually — more on that in a moment — but with track design so uninspired, graphical variety is sorely missing. Additionally, the other racers are never particularly difficult to beat, even on the highest setting. Without weapons, powerups, or items of any kind, you just need to make sure you hit the limited number of speed boosters on the track. Do so, and you win. Fail to do so, and you don't. So much for skill.

The controls are simple: you steer with the circle pad, accelerate with B and brake with A. As in the Mario Kart series, a well-timed press of the accelerator before the race begins will earn you a bonus boost, but this is about all you get by way of strategy throughout the entire game.

The tracks are wide enough that you won't be colliding with any walls unless somebody knocks you into them, which is easy enough to avoid. There are no holes to fall through or other obstacles of any kind, meaning you're only ever driving straight along and waiting for the next curve. Every so often there are the green rectangles you can run over to boost your speed, which may help you win the race but won't make the race much more enjoyable.

The visual design of the game is an interesting one, and we think it's successful in many ways. The basic line drawings may look like something someone put together using Petit Computer, but they animate smoothly and scale impressively. On many levels you can see the track stretching out into what feels like infinity before you, and you can see other racers through the wireframe environment as they wind their way through the course around you. It's a risky approach, but it works.

What doesn't work is the lackluster design of the tracks themselves. Many of them feel indistinguishable from one another, and even on the highest difficulty settings the dullness of VectorRacing makes it feel less like a racing game and more like a highway hypnosis simulator.

The game needs something — anything — to break up the gameplay, because as it stands it's a visual experience far more than a tactile one. Weapons, weather conditions, randomised tracks or obstacles, any of these would have helped.

There are six vehicles to choose from, but it's not difficult to win with even the slowest vehicle, so whatever you choose is down completely to personal preference. You can also choose to play these tracks singularly in Time Trial mode, submit times to online leaderboards or challenge up to four friends in local multiplayer, if you feel like explaining to them why you're not letting them play Mario Kart 7. Various options in the game let you adjust the volume of sound effects — what few there are — and turn every line to the uniform colour of your choosing. Go with red and it'll be just like playing any number of rightfully forgotten Virtual Boy games.

The music is a pulsing electronic throb that doesn't really leave an impact, but it's certainly not bad. The 3D effect, on the other hand, clashes terribly with the uniform black backgrounds, and lends to a game-wide disorienting visual bleed. Like the rest of VectorRacing, it's probably one of those things that worked much better on paper.

Conclusion

VectorRacing is graphically impressive, with its deliberately understated visual design allowing for smooth animation and impressive draw distances. When that's the best thing about your racing game, however, there's a problem. Uneventful tracks and a dire lack of variety means that racing on any one level feels like racing anywhere else, and that gets dull fast. Online leaderboards and local multiplayer are welcome additions, but the experience feels a bit slight for the cost of entry.

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