2020’s Formula Retro Racing offered a Virtua Racing-sized slice of nostalgia for those who grew up with racing games in the ‘90s.
Here was a distinctive flat-shaded polygon visual style, stable frame rates and handling that refreshingly didn’t rely on lurid drifts. Easy to pick up and play, trying to win a race on the Expert setting was a supreme challenge.
In fact, Traxion.GG contributor Justin Towell recently opined that this game, on the top difficult, around Monte Carlo was some of the best arcade racing he’d experienced in years.
The game by effective one-person-band Repixel8 – Andrew Jeffreys – found its way onto PlayStation late last year, before hitting the Nintendo Switch in April thanks to help from CGA Studio. Jeffreys also managed to release Gravity Chase, a zero-gravity racer at the start of this year.
It was to our amazement, then, that a very early work-in-progress build of a Formula Retro Racing sequel – subtitled World Tour – would come across our bows, ahead of a simultaneous release on PlayStation, Switch and Xbox 14th December 2022, PC following next year.
In essence, this takes what the original game offered with the same retro aesthetics but takes it to the next level by offering more of everything.
Instead of just one single-seater, there are now multiple variations of Grand Prix-inspired vehicles. There’s also a touring car of sorts, and while in this far-from-finished version we only had access to three open-wheelers and one tin top, the menu offered greyed-out spots for more to come.
On the track, much like the original, you do need to slow down for corners and learn each venue as you race through the field from a lowly starting position. This doesn’t drive as easily as something like Horizon Chase Turbo, for example.
The handling is distinct between the two main vehicle types so far, although at this stage the AI rivals in the touring car like to drift around corners, a new trait for World Tour. Yet we found that keeping things as neat as possible was more effective at this early stage, so there’s clearly some finetuning to be enacted.
You don’t race your computer-controlled rivals in a traditional sense. They aren’t going to defend should you fancy a sniff down the inside, but instead this is about scything your way through the field and learning the pack’s tendencies.
On the easier difficulty levels – selectable just like an actual arcade machine racer, as are the gloriously vintage ‘time extended’ audible calls – you’ll likely breeze to a straightforward win. Ramp things up though, and the joy comes through repeated failures. Honest, keep at it.
Tapping a rival’s car, or a wall, does result in damage, and sometimes gratuitous scenes of your car disembodying. When that happens, you will be reset back into the race, however, the hardcore knows that any crash really means you must restart the event.
Speaking of which, there are eight new locations, each a fictional circuit based in the city streets. During this preview access, we were able to try Montreal, Rome and London, with Tokyo one of the additional unlockable tracks when the final version ships.
We found ourselves repeatedly trying to win at the Canadian layout, its medium-speed corners requiring a lift or dab of brakes, which especially when a manual gearbox is chosen, delivers a stern test. At present, some of the AI’s lines through the corners perhaps needs some tweaking – thankfully there’s plenty of time to work on that ahead of launch.
We just wanted to keep trying, again and again, until that podium result was achieved.
Formula Retro Racing – World Tour builds upon the original with additional variety, not forgetting the four-player split screen and Eliminator modes, both in terms of tracks and differing handling models.
With a bit of luck and a lot of hard work, hopefully, it comes together as one satisfying sentimental package with enough there to sustain its appeal.
If you’re looking at this and thinking it’s a cute arcade racer, visually you’re correct. But to play, there’s a surprising depth to the driving experience that keeps you coming back for more. We’ll keep an eye on its progress as it nears completion.