Hotshot Racing carries with it all the nostalgic bits you feel for classic arcade racers such as Virtua Racing and Daytona USA. With its polygonal retro graphics and fast-paced exploits, and right down to the whimsical track themes parodying other arcade racers, it looks to be the next hottest casual racing title.
Upon first glance it looks like Hotshot Racing is your standard arcade racer. As with other games of its cloth, Grand Prix and Time Trials are the primary modes of the game and function exactly as you’d expect, but then there are more experimental modes to give it a bit of extra shading. Cops and Robbers features drivers racing along the track collecting money as they avoid the police, while Drive or Explode pits them against each other as they’re forced to keep their speed up and prevent their car from exploding. Keanu would be proud.
Much like a real car, these bonus modes aren’t the engine that make the game run efficiently. They’re a side feature on your dashboard, something you don’t weigh in your purchase decision but wholly appreciate once you spend some time with them. They offer you a chance to tackle these race courses in a completely different way, and become a side distraction once you’ve exhausted the main race types.
So how does the driving itself feel? It’s a lot faster than its retro inspirations, possibly due to hardware discrepancies allowing for more of the track to load in at once. Your cars feature statistics based on speed, acceleration and drift, but I found myself always going for vehicles stronger in the former two. Drifting is an essential part of the experience, allowing you to handle corners without sacrificing speed, but I never had a problem with moving around bends on a low-drift car. Each track doesn’t really have any sharp turns that necessitate investing in drift, and so I rarely had a reason to use it. In the end, it just made it harder to get to grips with a car that skids around like it’s on ice.
As for the tracks themselves, each circuit follows a straightforward circular pattern. In terms of practical design, they’re all not that different from each other. You tend to just drive in a straight line and take corners when you need to. It isn’t exceedingly complex, but it gets the job done. Where the game does shine, however, is in its thematic settings. Each track has a certain theme, such as being located on a breezy coast or in a thick jungle, but the details within each one also makes each one feel unique. For example there’s one set in a giant casino, where you rush through an indoor bit filled with slot machines and roulette tables, while another is set at a castle funfair complete with portcullis gates and medieval-themed pavilions. I loved this as you can tell the developers had a lot of fun with designing every single piece of detail within the tracks, and it gives them all a unique feel of their own.
On a technical level, your mileage may vary. The game does indeed run at 60fps as advertised, making these fast-paced races even more exciting as you’re able to see every detail as cleanly as possible. However, it’s also known to occasionally crash at end of races, preventing the game from counting the score and wiping any progress I’d made with that particular circuit. This is rare enough that you might not see this issues often if you’re playing casually, but it happened to me three times within a three hour play session.
It also goes without saying Hotshot Racing lends itself incredibly well to group play, allowing you to play with up to three other players on the same platform. You can play splitscreen offline against each other and AI drivers, but you’re also able to take this online and race with other people from around the world. Party play is a key ingredient of the game’s fun factor, and as far as I know not even Mario Kart lets you play online with four players on the same console.
Hotshot Racing isn’t the best racer out there. There are certainly others on the Switch that outshine it, but as far as casual fun goes it fits right at home with the console’s emphasis on group play. The retro visuals and fast performance only come second to the excellent range of multiplayer and game mode options on offer, and is a solid recommendation for anyone after a new arcade racer.
Tested on Switch
Also available on Xbox One, PS4, PC
Developer Lucky Mountain, Sumo Digital
Publisher Curve Digital
Disclosure a copy of Hotshot Racing was provided by Curve Digital