Published on February 17th, 2015 | by Lee Davies
Rock ‘N Racing Off Road
Format reviewed: Wii U eShop
Other formats available: exclusive
Developer: Enjoy Up Games
Publisher: Enjoy Up Games
Website: Rock ‘N Racing Off Road
Feeling nostalgic yet? Are you old enough to remember Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s Super Off Road Racing? If you’ve answered yes to both those questions then you may well receive a warm fuzzy glow of delight by re-living those childhood memories. Unfortunately, that warm glowing feeling will not last any time past a few play sessions of Rock ‘N Racing Off Road due to a total lack of optional extras.
Rock ‘N Racing Off Road is a top down slightly isometric racing game. The player controls what looks like, at first, a tiny rendition of a racing truck. This gives the game a certain feeling of Micro Machines and playing with toy cars, but being kept so far away from the action, i.e. well above and looking down, might get you thinking that realistic physics would not feel realistic. However, Rock ‘N Racing Off Road pulls off a solidly feeling motion based physics throughout. The game looks very accomplished as the only motion it has to control is the 5 trucks on screen, and debris that may appear through crashing into obstacles such as tyres, other than that the game screen is a static picture taken from that helicopter camera. Due to the lack of complexity, the game runs smoothly throughout without any drops in frame-rate, but that should be expected.
Controlling your chosen vehicle from a list of 4 (Walker, Highlander, Buggy and Monster Truck) is as easy as driving an RC car around your house. The A button accelerates, B brakes, reverses or instigates a drift, and the Analogue Stick (D-Pad) turns left or right. That’s it. Seems easy enough, but it does take some practice to get used to the unique style of control on offer. At first, the control set-up seems overly cumbersome and twitchy at the same time. Turning by just using the D-Pad is cumbersome, tap B to start a drift and the controls feel twitchy. Getting used to constantly correcting and re-correcting your angle of progression feels unnecessarily infuriating, but stick with it and after a few races you’ll be power sliding around the terrain like a pro. The only exception to this is when you hit uneven mounds of earth and the angle your truck lands at might not be what you thought it would be. Some of the harder courses seem like a complete fight through one near crash to another.
Which brings me onto the mainstay of all racing games the quality of the tracks on offer. They are in one word limited. The game’s eShop page is proud to tell you of numerous tracks, 16 in all, but that is not the whole truth of the matter. The Publisher, Enjoy Up Games, have seemingly forgotten to tell us all that each track is used 4 times in reversals, mirroring, different starting positions, and varying terrain. So, what you really have is 4 uniquely shaped tracks (oval, figure 8, and 2 more complexly shaped), with 4 variations on each track, totaling 16 different tracks. Limited indeed. This is of no great concern if the overall experience of playing through the game’s modes is higher than average.
The main menu includes the ability to play through a Championship, but only in a solo experience. Likewise, Time Trials, and Training provide for the single player. However, Multiplayer allowing 2-5 players simultaneously using every possible combination of controllers is the best thing about this game. However, unlocking every track, so that you and your 4 mates can play together, requires 1 person to sit down and complete the Championship Mode first.
In the Championship Mode 4 Cups are available, America, Europe, Asia and World and each cup has 4 tracks available. Finish 1st overall in one Cup to unlock the next, finish 2nd overall and you are treated to large screen simply stating ‘You Lose‘. Sounds straight forward, except for the difficulty at hand. The CPU controlled drivers are unrelenting in their vision of total off road dominance and will treat you unfairly if you get too near. It becomes all too infuriating if pushed off into a wall that traps you into performing a 3-point turn to correct and continue, but in doing so has scuppered all your chances of a victory. If playing local multiplayer then it’s all just a laugh, but after the 5th time of being unfairly treated by the CPU it’s time to call it day. And, that’s the biggest disappointment with Rock ’N Racing Off Road, its longevity.
So, let’s get some practice in to make sure your skills are up to scratch. The training mode is non-existant, or may as well be invisible. Choose this from the main menu and it’s a solo play affair, where you are dropped in an open arena, with no obstacles, so you can just practice. Practice what? Doing doughnuts? And, then it hits home, there are no options to upgrade vehicles, and nothing to prolong any sense of accomplishment that completing the single player experience may net you. There are online leader boards, but you’ll have to endure racing through a whole Cup (4 races of 4 laps each) before you can post a time. No option to race single individual tracks. Bizarre!
Off TV play is available through the magic of the Select (-) button. The game looks better on a TV, and the real-estate of a larger screen lets you see what’s going on at all times. It is all too easy to lose track of your car when playing on the GamePad under heavy collision incidents.
Music is bland throughout, and due to the title of the game including the word Rock, the soundtrack is some of the cheesiest takes on cheesy American rock music that I’ve ever heard. On the other hand, collisions and other sound effects sound meaty enough, so turn down the music, stick a CD of proper rock on, and get to it.
My last annoyance with this game, that could have been sublime, is the annoying presenter. He talks in that disinterested prefabricated style, similar to that annoying 2 headed Pod-Racer announcer of Star Wars Episode 1, with such staples as 3, 2, 1, Go!, This is just amazing!, Ooohh nice, This race is on Fire!, Be Careful, Smooth, Winner, Hurry Up. When you’ve heard the same blurb 4 times in a row within a minute it grates.
So, we come down to question of whether this visually delightful entertaining game is worth a purchase or not. If you are solely in the realms of single player local play, definitely not. But, if you can muster up a party night with a few friends then this might pass an hour of jolly frivolity, especially if you’re an age that has nostalgic leanings to its better predecessors.
Rock 'N Racing Off Road
Summary: Add an extra half star if you'll play this solid nostalgia trip primarily in multiplayer. Deduct half a star if you'll only play this solo.