If you’re looking for pure driving gameplay on Nintendo Switch, look no further. This is rally driving distilled into short-burst arcade stages that look great, move beautifully and feel wonderfully solid. After the disappointing Switch conversion of the otherwise awesome art of rally, Rush Rally Origins emphatically shows how Switch rallying should be handled.
The game is a remake of the iOS original, which was developed some 10 years ago by just one man who goes by the name of Brownmonster Games, back when good rally games were very scarce on iOS. The original is notable for employing an elevated chase camera, very much like art of rally’s now-unusual viewpoint.
This time, however, there’s a second isometric camera view that sees your car driving every which way, hurtling left and right through trees with dust flying. Utilising Rush Rally 3’s more advanced graphics engine (which, very impressively, is the developer’s own work), it looks superb. And though this release is out on mobile platforms with varying degrees of success, when it’s running in docked mode on Switch, everything runs at 60fps on ultra settings. It looks great.
It is, however, a much-simplified gameplay experience compared to its stablemate. There are three modes: Time Trial (complete with ghosts), Championship where you complete several series of rallies across various countries, and Race, which sees close contact racing action where six cars play out on the same rally stages.
All the levels are procedurally generated from some 100 parameters, but you honestly wouldn’t know it, as you can sometimes see the track down a hill, and be racing on it in a few seconds’ time. The world feels solid and assured, but enjoyably videogamey.
As for the driving, it’s so, so fun. The car physics are initially a tad laboured, but as soon as you start upgrading your car’s acceleration with the redistributable upgrade points, it starts to feel very satisfying indeed. In fact, so solid is the little rally car and so smooth the refresh rate, there’s more than a hint of the arcade version of Sega Rally Championship in its feel, which is always a good thing.
The cars scrabble for grip out of low-speed hairpins better than the licensed WRC series has in years, and a tap of the brake gets the back to step out, allowing you to powerslide around corners to maintain both momentum and your massive grin. While it’s not really designed to be played with real rally techniques like the Scandinavian flick, the occasional succession of left, right, left corners feels amazing when you get it right, swinging majestically through the countryside before tearing up the road as your codriver tells you to “floor it”.
It’s fundamentally easy to drive, thanks to the very simple controls, but – like the best arcade racers – it’s very difficult to master, especially in the isometric view where keeping your car lined up over jumps and judging corners as they occasionally tighten is rather difficult.
The leaderboard times are hard to beat, and a single mistake can cost you several seconds and drop you from the top spot; and only the top three give you a medal. But this keeps you striving for perfection as you chase gold medals in every category of car power, and chasing perfection is what driving games are all about, after all.
The co-driver’s distorted voice calls the corners in classic ‘Easy Right’ style, and little corner indicators appear in the track in front of you so you always know what’s coming up. This is necessary, even in chase cam, as the camera’s tilt never lets you see very far ahead.
That means what you do see is richly detailed. Only the handheld mode sees any noticeable frame hitches, but even these are only in races, infrequent and haven’t been enough for me to go turning down any detail levels in the impressively PC-like graphics options. It’s likely due to the game’s development ethos which was to make the code as quick and efficient as possible. It’s just well coded, and it really shows.
As for bad points, I do wish it had more obvious crash damage, especially since the car flips and ploughs through fences with true beauty, but never loses fenders or doors. It could also really do with multiplayer races and perhaps some dedicated race tracks solely for the race mode. It does also get a little repetitive after a while, though the car handling changes as you upgrade, and doing so takes time for each car individually, so there will be at least some variety for a while.
But it’s intended to be a counterpoint to the full-sim action of Rush Rally 3, not a replacement, which makes perfect sense. Even without that game in your library, judged purely on its own merit, Rush Rally Origins is still one of the best driving games on the system. And at a low price point of £4.99 in the eShop, there’s no reason not to get involved. It’s a really good game.
|19th August 2021
|Nintendo Switch, iOS and Android
|Best played with
Full disclosure: We purchased this game for review purposes. Here is our review policy.