Horizon Chase Turbo – The Switch Island Review
Get these developers working on F Zero now!
I like my racing games to be a pedal to the metal fight to the finish with little to do with the boring complications of real driving. I don’t want to have to break for corners, change gears, or worry about tyre tread. You’ll be astonished that F Zero, Mario Kart and Burnout are my faves. At a glance, Horizon Chase Turbo (HCT from now on) looked like it could it give me more of the same. But does it?
The Switch might be relatively light on racers, but it’s far from light on retro revival games. HCT is the next in a long line of games that emulate games of yore. If you played and enjoyed any of the Top Gear games on the SNES, you’ll be happy to hear that they were the main source of inspiration for HCT. The vibrant colours, the abstracted polygonal graphics, the screaming music, it’s all here, like it’s been waiting for you since the ‘90s. But now it’s all in HD and 60fps. HCT is one of those games that looks and sounds a lot better than pictures can show. You need to see it to believe how good it looks. Even better, play it.
HCT wants to get you racing. Kick it into gear, and it speedily jumps from main menu to car choice to race track. You’ll be counting down the starter light before you’ve had time to extinguish your cigar. In fact, everything about this game is snappy. Yep, I’m going to say it: HCT has the fastest racing ever. Admittedly, I’ve played about four racing games so don’t get too excited. But two of those games were F Zero, so at least I’ve got that. HCT is ludicrously fast by any metric. The music, the AI racers, the cars; all of it is there to push you to go as fast as possible all the time. And that’s just fine by me.
There are four main modes and all of them can be played (local) multiplayer. I’ve mostly played World Tour with my co-op buddy (who seconds as my wife). The World Tour is the main mode, which takes you city by city on a campaign to get as many gold cups as you can. Each city typically has two or three tracks and each country typically has three cities plus a bonus track. So, roughly there are about a gazillion tracks to play. The goal of course is to be first to the finish. The 19 other cars you’re racing against do not make it easy. Each race becomes an attempt to keep it together throughout a blistering set of corners and straights, and often the final lap is tense, exciting and fun as hell. Narrowing down the distance to the leaders and fighting for poll position in HCT is pure gaming gold.
Two of the other modes are tournament style events, and the last mode is Playground. This one is a seasonally provided set of challenge races, where the standard set-ups are messed with, for fun and extra challenge. Examples may include different weather conditions, a choice of a particularly weak car, or a mirrored circuit. With World Tour, both tournament modes and a regular set of new Playground content, you’re not going to run out of stuff to do. Oh, and there’s ghost cars, which can include your Switch buddies, for some hearty oneupmanship. Sadly, there’s no online multiplayer to ice this particular cake.
Getting to the finish isn’t the only challenge, as there are blue coins on the tracks too. These are optional but you are graced with a special diamond cup if you collect all of them and come first. Not an easy task, mind you. Much less optional is that each track has craftily placed fuel canisters. Fuel? Yeah, each car has a different sized fuel tank. You have to keep an eye on how much you have left and collect as necessary. Running out of fuel when you’re in first place is a special kind of hell. Tracks with fiendishly placed canisters did make us seek out the cars with capacious fuel tanks. And you get three nitro boosts to deploy too, per race, with one or two extra ones sprinkled on the tracks for collection. Warning: do not use nitro too close to a tight corner.
Your choice of cars is more important that it might first appear. The cars are instantly recognisable as brand name vehicles, but the differences aren’t just aesthetic. Often it’s a good idea to try one with better handling or a better nitro to win a particularly demanding track. Or, if the track has easy access to fuel, pick a car with a small tank but high top speed. And there are plenty of cars to unlock, and we do love a good unlockable. Collecting coins, saving fuel, and coming first garner you higher points, and reaching point thresholds unlocks shiny new machines. However, the best cars are locked behind gold cups; win every race in a country for the best ones.
The only very minor negative for us has been that the game crashed a few times, just stopping dead mid-race. These crashes, it must be said, happened much less frequently than our car crashing. Hopefully the game crashing can get patched.
Overall, HCT is a thrill-seekers’ paradise; a riot of colour, speed and adrenaline. It feels good, it looks good, and fighting like a fiend for first place has never made me sweat so much. Go grab yourself a yellow Lamborghini, turn up the 90’s tunes, and hold down the accelerate button like your life depends on it. I had no idea what I was getting myself in for. I love this game.