When my editor, Danreb, emailed me asking if I wanted to have a look at Star Racer I was curious. This was the first I’d heard of the game, but, of course, that could just be because it’s impossible to keep track of every game coming out nowadays.
After having a look at the email and seeing the game described as “Star Fox meets F-Zero,” I understood why he asked me to have a look. I am a fan of both franchises, and I’ve been starved for a game that scratches that itch. F-Zero 99 just didn’t do anything for me–it felt off, like I was not really connected to the craft I was driving.
So I went ahead and downloaded the Star Racer demo on Steam. I was expecting yet another indie studio’s attempt to capture the magic of those classic franchises, but ultimately it would fall short. I was not, however, expecting a game that is more F-Zero than F-Zero has been in decades.
From the very first time you load into the game, I was smacked across the face with a nostalgic style of presentation. It starts with the Smash Bros inspired announcer, and continues to the anthropomorphic themed craft. Then I loaded into the race itself.
The way this game moves and feels to control is immediately familiar. The hovercraft feel distinct enough that I was able to find a favorite before too long. Once I did, I started to get a real sense of connection to the craft. It responds instantly to my inputs, and I was negotiation complex sets of turns, turning and sliding my way around the courses. It’s just so smooth and very satisfying.
Some sections of the course consist of long jumps. These craft can’t fly, but they can glide. Maybe there is an upgrade that will let them do this, but I rather like how this is implemented. Getting the craft’s nose up as it come off a jump will send it upward into the air. From there, it’s a matter of adjusting the pitch to keep it from going too high or too low.
While in the air, the Accelerate button becomes the Laser button which is used to fire off shots at opponents. These are finite resources, collectible as pickups on the track, so spamming shots is not really a viable strategy.
The demo of Star Racer had two race types. A Standard Race and a Death Race. Each type has different tracks. Death Racer are more focused on taking out your opponents and surviving, while the Standard Races are typical podium affairs.
I can’t really pick a favorite type between the two, if I’m honest. During the time I played the demo, I got into moods where I wanted to focus more on racing, and moods where I wanted to go for KOs. It is nice to have both options.
The demo also includes a Course Editor. I can see people creating some epic courses with this, and of course, there will be the extreme difficulty enthusiasts that will try to torture everyone with their creations. Despite this, having a course editor is a great addition to keep a game going over time, especially if those courses can be shared easily.
The only real issue I have with the game as of now is the difficulty. I found the AI to be very challenging. Having the ability to fine tune this would be a nice addition. There is an option in the settings to make the craft faster, but no option to make them slower or dial the AI back. It’d be nice to have these for accessibility.
I went into this game with low hopes, since I’ve been burned so many times already. Well, this is not one of those times. Star Racer is a rare example of a game that knows what made Star Fox and F-Zero so appealing, and plays to those strengths. I expect this is one game that is going to get a lot of play time from me, come its release..