Hands-on with Victory Heat Rally, a 16-bit themed romp

Hands-on with Victory Heart Rally, a 16-bit themed romp

Victory Heat Rally is a promising upcoming kart racer styled game that’s making its way towards release in 2022. It harks back to the Mega Drive / Genesis era of racing games where 16-bit graphics are bright, bold and colourful and the gameplay is streamlined and easy to pick up.

For the Steam Next Fest demo, two tracks were available. One was a circuit and one was a rally. Whilst the terrains were different in each, that didn’t change up the handling – it’s more the style of race. Circuits involve laps, rally’s are an extended single run lasting a couple of minutes.

Victory Heart Rally jump

The game hails from the school of drift and boost. Accelerating can be automated but braking and turning sends you into a drift that charges up your boost meter. You can visually see this charge and above it on screen are three lights for the three levels of boost you can achieve.

The key to winning is getting Level 3 boosts wherever possible and then hanging on by the seat of your pants. Your car will rocketship forward the second element of victory is making sure you stay on track when it does. As your car is so on rails and grippy during the turns, once players are up to speed with the handling model, it’ll be boosting that decides who wins and survives.

Victory Heart Rally driver select

The demo offered up one character, but 12 will be in the game. Each character has its own stats including car weight. This means you’ll be trading top speed for drifting, handling or reaction times which is a nice addition. A fantastic addition is the games pumping rave and house soundtrack. Composers RoBKTA and GWIZ have made something that is as if early Prodigy composed a cute anime battler soundtrack. Catchy, kawaii and visceral at the same time – it’s a true highlight.

The full game will also feature 36 stages across 12 locations. Assuming the graphical beauty carries well across them all, this will be a treat for retro gamers. Each of the two locations looked very different but felt part of the same world palette. I was instantly taken back to not just Super Mario Kart but specifically Street Racer from the mid-’90s. The two share the same DNA and it made Victory Heat Rally feel like putting on comfy slippers.

Victory Heart Rally drifting

This comment isn’t without a bit of controversy though. When the game launched its Kickstarter, it did with a Power Drift graphical style to its roads. This approach means roads feel less like two coloured polygons looping over and over, something a lot of retro kart racers do. The game moved towards this graphical style after being funded which caused a few backers to be upset. What I can say is that cel-shaded cars and trackside objects look funny when playing back race replays from TV camera perspectives. It’s because they are 2D sprites being rotated around in a 3D world so it feels very retro but definitely an acquired taste.

While not included in the demo, split-screen will be part of the game although curiously it hasn’t been explicitly confirmed for how many players. We assume it’s four from the original Kickstarter page. There were also no AI races, so we can’t comment on that either, but the game ran smoothly and handles like a dream.

VHR arcade racing game

All in all, Victory Heat Rally impressed me with its fun factor and simple but addictive gameplay. Anyone craving a vibrant kart racer should definitely keep this on their radar. While a Switch version is on the way, only the PC version has this early demo available at present. We can’t wait to get out on track when it releases next year.

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