Local multiplayer racing games. You can’t beat them for a quick throwdown. If you win, it’s all skill and if you lose – well it’s not a sim anyway so it doesn’t really count. Spoiler – in my household it definitely does count.
Total Arcade Racing does exactly what it says on the tin. It provides top-down racing for up to eight players locally for PC and Switch. What it lacks in graphical prowess, it makes up for in multiplayer fun.
The first thing to mention is that Total Arcade Racing follows the no weapons model of arcade racing. Here, it is all about driving skills and not lobbing missiles at each other. This gives the game a bit more of a racing feel than some others, although it isn’t quite as detailed in its handling as something like Circuit Superstars or art of rally.
Each race consists of four laps around various circuits in your chosen car and first one home wins. There are a variety of cars and tracks to unlock by playing either Time Trial or Championship Mode and the bar is set very low to unlock the next track in the menu.
The handling changes depending on the car you select. Each car is ranked between A-C (although I didn’t spot any B ranked cars which is confusing) with A being the faster but trickier cars and C being the slower and generally more compliant ones.
There is a tendency to initially understeer before snapping into an oversteer drift and so I found it far easier to nudge cars around soft turns rather than fully turn. It also meant that braking or lifting off the throttle was the fastest way to get around tight hairpins, otherwise you’d drift to a halt.
These mechanics are more pronounced on the faster A-rank cars because they will also skid upon acceleration too. Your formula car handles like a jelly squiggle and takes some patience to control properly.
The single player experience works best when you are racing against ghosts from the online leaderboards.
Every time you race in Time Trial, you’ll have your personal best and a ghost rival to beat. At the end of each event, you’ll be shown your position on the board, and you’ll want to come back to circuits again and again. This is because there is one leaderboard for each circuit for all car types and it’s clear that the formula car is the beast.
Even on the off-road tracks, the formula car trumps everything. It would have been nice to have separate boards per car type as everyone will just hotlap in this vehicle once they unlock it.
Races are similarly a bit strange in single player too. Your AI-controlled opponents follow a specific line, but as they all race in different cars of the same A or C class, most are simply too slow, and you end up lapping half of them by lap three. This isn’t helped by some circuits having moving barrier shortcuts that the AI refuse to use. Your rivals also seem not to use the recharging boost as much as they should either.
The closest game I can align Total Arcade Racing to is Super Sprint, an old arcade classic that was famous for having a three-player cabinet and extremely spinny wheels. The handling, graphical style and top-down perspective replicate Super Sprint but with a modern overhaul.
Where Total Arcade Racing does shine, however, is in its multiplayer offering. Here tracks are zoomed out to a single screen for all players to see. Races are frantic and silly. Tracks often have an oil slick on the outside of a tight corner and so a tactical nudge can make or break a race. There is one track with a train that crosses through and the number of times we ended up bashing someone onto the tracks to be smashed into was cracking.
Choo Choo Thomas – bye, bye, player four. You can also play each race as an elimination mode too which is a nice touch.
Mini games galore
It isn’t just racing though. Demolition Derby mode brings you into an arena to smash each other to bits. It’s not quite Wreckfest but is a fun distraction. You can pick up health drops to be the last car standing and having up to eight players involved in this mode is a great experience.
Similarly, the Survivor mode works well too. Here you must avoid as many AI-controlled cars as possible without being hit. Using tight turns, you can cause them to smash into each other, forcing an elimination.
More substantial mini-games are Car Hockey and Delivery. Car Hockey works like a 2D Rocket League and when you have four or more players in the game, is a genuine laugh. The goal is relatively wide and so resorting to smash tactics is often your only option. Your trusty recharging boost comes into its own in this mode for the dash towards the puck.
Will it take over your life? No, but it was the mode my multiplayer gang spent the most time in outside of races. Delivery wasn’t too far behind either.
Here boxes appear on random tracks for you to race towards and collect. You then need to drive them into the delivery circle. As you drag it behind you with a rope, others can smash it into the box to take over the delivery. Depending on the circuit, this game can descend into an unwinnable smashfest, but otherwise, I had a smile upon my face.
Considering the $9.99/€9.99 price point, Total Arcade Racing offers a variety of different options for multiplayer fun. It can be a little sterile as a single-player experience but add in some mates and you’ll get plenty of mileage. Just so long as you remember that there’s no online multiplayer at present – unless you use remote play together on the Steam version.
It isn’t quite as polished as Ultimate Racing 2D but it did give me Super Sprint vibes from my ZX Spectrum days. Simple to understand with a nuance to master, consider this one if you are looking for some more top-down racing battles. Best served in short bursts.
|Developer||Pretty Fly Games|
|Release date||7th May 2021|
|Available platforms||PC (Steam) and Nintendo Switch, Xbox One at a later date|
|Version/s tested||Nintendo Switch and PC|
|Best played with||Controller|
Full disclosure: A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Here is our review policy.