Review – Formula Retro Racing – World Tour
There’s a damn good reason why Mountain Lightning is still drunk in mass quantities across the United States. It’s certainly not the cost or the presentation: Mountain Dew is practically cheap as free and has a much wider variety of colors, flavors, and side effects. Nor is it more accessible: walk into a Cumberland Farms and ask if you can get Mountain Lightning, they’ll burn you with a vape pen faster than you can ask for twenty dollars on pump six. No, it’s because, in spite of what you might think for a drink that’s 30 cents a can, it’s surprisingly good. It doesn’t have the massive syrup after taste, nor does it give you vapor trails like Dew does after four cans in thirty minutes. In spite of perception, it’s honestly a great product.
Formula Retro Racing – World Tour, a polygon laden racer from Repixel8, is as honest a product as you can get in the indie gaming scene. A game that clearly takes a deep pull of inspiration from the racing titles of the PlayStation 1 and even Dreamcast era, this is a simple title where what you see is what you get. Choose a course, choose a car, choose a color, and hang onto your butt as you dive into multiple laps of rotational, weaponless mayhem.
It’s a little bizarre to be in the driver’s seat of a racing game nowadays where simply being a racing game is the hook. When you think of top titles like Grand Turismo, Forza Horizon, or even BurnOut, there are levels of realism, detail, and almost unforgiving nuance that keep people coming back for more. You want to unlock cars, horns, engines, every aspect of customization that you can imagine. Inversely, kart racers like Mario Kart or even Smurf Kart have you looking for silliness and combat to alleviate the lack of finer racing dynamics therein.
But with Formula Retro Racing – World Tour, there’s nothing more than simply racing around and appreciating a bit of damage physics, and some standard AI nonsense. The differences in the car models seem to have no affect on the racing style, and, if there are differences, they’re subtle enough the average player wouldn’t notice. There’s the option to do manual shifting if you really want to give yourself the illusion of control, but it’s a seemingly pointless endeavor when you simply need to just lean on the gas as hard as possible and also brake to death when going around sharp turns. If you understood the mechanics of R.C. Pro-AM Racing for the NES< good news: this is even easier because you can’t pick up rockets.
For all the different modes available – practice, endurance, world tour, and versus – there still isn’t anything that sets one apart from the other, especially if you’re a solo racer because your kids genuinely don’t give a damn about racing games. Gas is one trigger, you gear shift with a face button, and brake is the other trigger. Adjust the perspective as you see fit (I sincerely hate first person driving), and off you go. There are additional tracks to unlock through points, and you get points by doing well in the races. Once you understand the core mechanic of “don’t come in last,” you’ve pretty much mastered the game.
So what makes it work? What keeps this title from simply slipping off the charts and into the ocean of indie titles where we all will eventually float? Formula Retro Racing – World Tour is keenly aware of its simplicity, and seems to revel in it. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, they take the mission statement of “retro racer” and play it to the bone. They aren’t looking to create something brand new: they’re paying homage to all the fantastic games that clearly inspired the developers from years gone by. Everything is done up with polygons and THICK pixels because that’s how Sega racers looked back in the day, even in the late 16-bit era. It’s refreshingly honest, and allows me to be halfway decent at the game because I’m not looking for shortcuts or exploits: I’m just moving forward.
The chiptune soundtrack is blasting along some fantastic beats that put you in the roll cage of this glorified, wireframe go-kart, and it’s the right kind of arcade feeling. I don’t worry about trying to match someone’s worldwide high score or flexing on my online viewers, I’m simply trying to outrun the quarter I put in so that I can get my money’s worth. When the track is simple, I try and draft the best I can without getting beat up by the bloodthirsty AI, because sometimes computers play Twisted Metal even if you weren’t intending on it. When you see an enemy car EXPLODE from someone else’s rage, you barely have time to admire the spray of pixels before moving up the racing ranks.
Additionally, this package is simply tight from front to back. It could have been this same level of retro and saturated in jank to really capture that yesteryear feel, but Repixel8 has done their due diligence in game creation. In spite of having the perception of a PSX game with an upscale, the controls are tight and the response is positively pinpoint. When I start smashing into walls or suffer abnormal amounts of damage, it’s not because the disc is spinning up or my controller is feeble, it’s because I’M feeble and this game that looks older than my coworkers dances around with an almost insulting level of dexterity.
But what sells the magic is the simple but biting hook of the entire game. Formula Retro Racing – World Tour invites you to simply jump into the driver’s seat and go with the same loop of excitement and challenge that you find in the classics of their time: things like Space Invaders, Galaga, or even House of the Dead knew how to tap into that feeling of wanting to keep going with no discernable reason why, and it works so well here on the race track. Does it look fantastic? Not particularly, but it looks how it should look, plays how it should play, and feels even better than it deserves. It oozes fun, and that’s something in an era where every game needs a gimmick to separate itself from the herd.
It’s hard to sell an arcade game beyond what a trailer might tell you, but Formula Retro Racing – World Tour has a sincere veneer about it that keeps you coming back for more. This isn’t just some random cabinet in a smoky arcade in Glendale, this is a lovingly crafted homage that begs you to try and walk away once you get the hang of it. There’s precision, there’s enjoyment, there’s actually fantastic design that promises a fun time and delivers in spades. Though it may not inspire me to purchase an arcade wheel controller, I might pull on driving gloves once in a while and hit the highly saturated roadway to tear up the digital asphalt at my own speed.
Though I understand the blocky pixels, wireframed cars, and low detail tracks are by design and purpose, it doesn’t stop them from still being dated, even if that is the intent.
As simple as the driving approach is and the lack of customization or finesse, Formula Retro Racing still captures the key motions and even incorporates a good level of questionable AI formulation to keep things fresh.
Excellent chiptunes and good sound effects mixed in, the aural elements are sometimes repetitive and droning, but craft a solid soundtrack overall that makes this a bop to listen to.
Fun Factor: 9.0
I’m not a racing fan and have no desire to become one, but I completely threw myself into this game and really had a refreshing time in a lane I wasn’t accustomed to traversing. I think most others would be, too.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Formula Retro Racing – World Tour is available now on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, Nintendo Switch and PS4, and PS5.
Reviewed on Xbox One X.
A copy of Formula Retro Racing – World Tour was provided by the publisher.