Punk’s not dead and neither is speed. Horizon Chase Turbo delivers colourful thrills at over 300kph and has crashed into the Nintendo eShop at full speed. If you’ve recently found yourself enjoying the 12th port of Outrun and reminiscing the good old days, this could be the game that makes you feel alive again.
You start every race in last place just so there’s always an opportunity for risky overtakes and maximum thrills. The controls are fairly simple but it doesn’t control like a racing game in the traditional sense. It’s similar to a lot of old-school racing games made in the infancy of 3D graphics, where technically it’s the track that rotates, not the car. This means you can go flat out while turning in some long corners and still stay in the middle of the track. Your “left / right” turning will just change the “lane” of the track you are on, while acceleration and braking will determine whether or not you stay on the corner. You do still turn for the corners but can also slide left and right in the corner itself. It’s very simple but flying at high speeds, anticipating corners and passing cars is what provides the challenge.
This game has a TON of content. The main mode World Tour has more than 100 races across 12 different countries, all with track layouts of their own. It’s so rich in courses that I would say one of the primary skills in this game is learning the track layout, because the corners will come hard and fast later on. Scanning your eyes between the actual racetrack and mini-map can become quite the struggle. Races are short, averaging from 2 to 5 laps in about 2 minutes, so the large number of track layouts is very welcome. It keeps the challenge fresh while also providing good visual variety.
The locations are all based on real places, but not real racetracks. It has that classic arcade style approach where they cram as many different landmarks as possible into any track layout they want. A racetrack around the Opera House? Why not. Kangaroos on the side of the road? Sure. It’s a videogame that can be whatever it wants. This design approach, combined with colourful graphics and huge sense of speed really gives a sense of novelty that makes this game charming from the start. There’s crazy weather thrown in as well, with some rain, snow and even an erupting volcano in Hawaii. Nothing can stop a good race from happening. It plays the unrealistic arcade card to its fullest, and feels extra refreshing if you’ve been playing a lot of realistic games like Forza. It’s a very fun and carefree visual style and I enjoyed going to each location just to see what they would throw into the background.
The music isn’t super inspiring, but the fact that it has an original soundtrack at all puts it above a large percentage of the racing genre. It’s nice to hear something new. Some tunes are bangin’, some just alright, some blend into the background a bit. Overall I enjoyed the music but would not listen to it outside the game. It does a pretty good job staying consistent and upbeat and suits the game well. It’s refreshing but doesn’t come close to any iconic racing soundtrack like F-Zero, for example. Not too many of the melodies stand out and they repeat songs a fair bit. A good effort nonetheless and the music does its job. Here’s a little Twitter clip with a music and gameplay sample.
World Tour is the game’s biggest mode and where I’ve spent most of my 10 hours playtime so far. It’s structured so you gain the chance to upgrade your cars, and unlock new cars as you go. This has a satisfying sense of progression since some cars are clearly superior to others, but it can also be disheartening when you first start playing and see your friend’s leaderboard times are 30 seconds faster than yours. Don’t worry though, it’s just what happens when you go back and replay tracks with stronger cars. Like being over-leveled for an early boss fight and pummeling it, you can go back for a good time later with your future OP cars. In a twist though, the game actually gets harder with better cars, because you need to be ready for the fast turns much quicker and passing other cars is more twitchy. Even though your handling stat goes up you’ve still gotta be ready to hit that button as the corner appears at the speed of light.
I am left questioning the point of the acceleration stat, however. If you start a race too well then you just bump into cars from behind and there’s a net loss of time. With 3 cars side-by-side, there’s just no way around and you gotta be patient so high acceleration is wasted. I can’t see any benefit besides when you crash, which ideally wouldn’t happen if you’re trying to come 1st or set a top time. I’d recommend top speed or high nitro for that. Extra nitro boosts can sometimes be collected around the track, an extra incentive to remember the track layout.
While I have had a great time with this game, I have to add that it had MAJOR issues with crashing. Not the driving kind, but the kind that stops the game entirely. I had more than a dozen lock-ups during my playtime of the main campaign, always at the end of the race. This suggests it’s a problem with how the leaderboards loaded or results saved. The occasional crash I can shrug off, but I’ve never played a game in my life before that froze this many times. It wasn’t the end of the world but it would mean closing the software, re-opening it and half the time redoing the race. In the past week there’s been a patch, and I’ve played a few races with no crashes, but can’t confirm if that has been fixed. It’s looking promising and if I feel confident the crashes have been fixed I’ll post a comment about it later on this page.
Horizon Chase Turbo is a game I highly recommend to racing fans as it scratches a lot of racing game itches that have been left unscratched for a while. The vibrant colour scheme combined with easy to learn controls give you that “heck yeah, videogames” feeling right from the 60fps title screen. Even the menus and world map are high quality. It has a huuuuge amount of content, including World Tour, Tournaments, Endurance, 4 player split screen, and weekly online challenges. The “weakness” of this game is that the driving lacks the kind of depth that can keep you playing for hours. Even the Endurance mode is just made up of tons of small races played consecutively. It’s best enjoyed in small play sessions, but that just makes it perfect for Switch. It is also available on PS4, PC and Xbox One. Pick this game up if you want to feel your blood pumping with racing adrenaline again and keep arcade racing alive in your soul.