In the tradition of arcade racers like Daytona and Cruis’n USA comes Sumo Digital’s Hotshot Racing. The game wears its visual influences on its sleeves, but the controls have more in common with Mario Kart. Even taking into account that games like Daytona were already focused on an arcade experience – this game takes it further.
The first thing you’ll notice about Hotshot Racing is that it is a vibrant, colorful game despite the low-poly design. The cars and tracks are all over the color spectrum, and it honestly looks quite well most of the time. It looks like classic arcade racers as we remember them through nostalgia goggles, rather than how they actually are. The tracks are not just colorful, but also have a lot of personality to them, visually. The cars and drivers all have numerous cosmetic customizations to unlock through gameplay, so the game never gets stale in that regard.
Once you get racing a bit of luster falls off, though. The tracks, while visually interesting, don’t have much variety to their layouts, and none are truly challenging to learn. They also lack things like obstacles and alternate route choices to mix things up with. There are 16 tracks (as well as the option to run them mirrored), but they start to feel the same quickly. Some post-launch tracks that add to the diversity would be quite welcome. Even better would be a track editor for players to share their designs.
As you would expect, there are multiple modes to play through, and many, many things to unlock. There are eight drivers, and each driver has four unique cars to choose from. All of these are unlocked right from the start, however, each car has several parts that can be customized with unlockables, and the racers have a few different skins to pick from. All the unlocks are completely cosmetic, so there is no tweaking the various cars, for better or worse. The game features the usual array of racing modes like Grand Prix (4 sets of 4 races each), single race, time trial (with optional ghosts), and some multiplayer options which can be played online or locally with AI drivers. Despite all the things to unlock, though, once you’re done with the Grand Prix races there isn’t much to bring you back. We’ll have to wait and see how the multiplayer shapes up, and competition between friends swapping ghosts can be engaging if you’re into that.
The actual gameplay is a lot of fun and stays solid throughout. The controls are tight, but drifting will take a bit of practice to get right. The first time you hit a turn and hit the brakes to start a drift you will almost certainly end up hitting a wall or spinning around the other way. This game takes its drift mechanics from Mario Kart, which leads to highly exaggerated swings that are disconcerting. You will want to drift at every chance since it builds a boost meter that is critical to winning at higher difficulties. Unfortunately, even at those higher difficulties, there isn’t much challenge. Part of this comes from the game never giving you a rival character that pushes you to remain in the top ranks every race. For instance, in one Grand Prix, I ended the last race in seventh out of eight but still won the overall tournament easily. Even for someone who doesn’t go for super challenging games like me the level of difficulty was disappointingly low.
Hotshot Racing Review Final Thoughts:
There’s plenty to do and unlock in Hotshot Racing, but not really much to grab you once you have cleared the Grand Prix challenges. The tracks need more variety in their layouts and an increased challenge in single-player AI. Even with a tendency to want to play bumper cars the AI just doesn’t pressure the racers much, and so the game’s longevity will be highly reliant on multiplayer. Some post-launch tracks would go a long way to helping, too. Still, at only $19.99 it’s not a bad package. If you ever feel the itch for some old-school arcade racing this is going to be one of your best bets on the market currently.