I think it’s time publishers were realistic about these Switch ports of titles that are already struggling even with PS5’s power and just cancelled them. Someone somewhere’s going to get a very nasty shock when they buy this.
For a game that is graphically imperfect on the next-gen consoles, this Switch version of RiMS Racing actually does a surprisingly good job for the first 10 minutes when it’s just you and the track. There are compromises in terms of resolution, texture quality, detail distance and density, anti-aliasing and motion blur – but even with all of that turned down (or off altogether) for Switch, it at least moves smoothly and looks solid as a result.
‘Hey, this is alright!’ you’ll think, happily. But then you finish the tutorial and start a race and the Sellotape and prayers come apart completely. As soon as there are other bikes on the track, the frame rate takes a massive hit, bringing repressed memories of Sega Touring Car Championship on Saturn flooding back to the surface. Frame rates this bad weren’t even good enough in 1997, who would willingly pay £44.99 for them now?
Then there are the controls. If ever there was a game that demonstrated why triggers need to be analogue, it’s RiMS Racing on Switch. Beginning the game on default settings means intermediate physics that make braking and exiting corners supposedly a little more forgiving. Well, without analogue triggers, all of the throttle gets applied to the rear wheel when you push the button, and so you fall off the bike.
You can pump at the button, sure, but even moderate presses make your back wheel step out dangerously, a lot like Namco’s wonderful old MotoGP game on PSP, only here it’s very annoying. You can adjust the traction control level on the fly using the direction buttons, but you’re far better off reconfiguring the controls to let you use the right thumbstick for accelerating and rear brake, Gran Turismo 3 style, with the front brake mapped to ZL. Annoyingly, reconfigured controls are forgotten if you switch from Pro Controller to Joy Cons and even back again, and I fell off more using the Joy Cons than the Pro Controller, likely due to their limited subtlety of movement.
Still, with analogue acceleration enabled, things become far more manageable and – in time-trial at least – actually pretty enjoyable as the physics are given a chance to show their subtleties. There’s nothing wrong with the speed of the game, either, as you hurtle over crests and lean into turns, tiptoeing over kerbs and trying not to trigger the impressive penalty system, which analyses any advantage gained from your transgression and either penalises you or waves you on seamlessly. You can also immediately tell when something’s broken on your bike, which is exactly the kind of human/machine-as-one relationship the game is going for.
While the circuit selection is strong, they don’t look so hot. The road courses are very basically rendered even for Switch, and the licensed tracks look dreadful in races due to the abysmal frame rate. Try Suzuka or similar in the rain and you’re also met with some of the worst reflections this side of an N64 game. You even drive past them at some points, with new ultra-low resolution reflection samples appearing to take their place. It’s a clever idea, but it looks dreadful.
In both docked and handheld mode, the Switch’s low resolution isn’t helped by the aliasing in the middle to far distance, which makes grids and walls shimmer as you approach. In handheld mode the image quality is so compromised, the game looks like a PS Vita racer from almost ten years ago, only far jerkier.
There’s something to be said for a simulation of such depth that it asks you to mimic the motion of unscrewing old components before slotting in the new ones, and then selling the used parts for spare money. In this regard, it really is the same game as its big brothers, complete with that deep career mode, the brilliantly self-indulgent Motorbike Status Check and multi-levelled factory hub area. It’s certainly the most authentic bike racer on Switch, but should it ever have been ported to it at all?
I’m sure by now you see the answer is no. Played as a time trial game, you can still have some genuine two-wheeled fun with this Switch version. But the title says ‘racing’ and as soon as you start trying to do that, the hardware clearly just wants to curl up and die. What a shame.