Review: Rush Rush Rally Racing (Dreamcast)

Rush Rush Rally Racing
Publisher: Redspot Games
Developer: Senile Team
Genre: Racing
Release Date: 11/03/2009

It’s been a good year for the Dreamcast. I’ve already reviewed the first two releases for the system this year in Dux and Last Hope: Pink Bullets. Now it’s time to review the third release of the year, Rush Rush Rally Racing. I did an interview with the developers, Senile Team, back in September, and even though I’m not a racing game fan, I found myself pretty excited for this release.

Of course, it’s also a Redspot Game release, and I remember having the same enthusiasm last year for Wind and Water Puzzle Battles and being pretty let down. Will Rush Rush Rally Racing continue the trend of mediocre Redspot Games releases, or will it continue the trend of a pretty good 10th anniversary for the ol’ Sega Dreamcast?

Let’s Review

1. Modes

I’ll admit I was actually surprised that the vast majority of this game is multiplayer only. Especially as Dreamcast gaming these days is reduced to solo play. Almost everything released over the past few years have been traditional shooters or puzzle games. R4 really changes that dynamic by giving us only one mode for single players (Grand Prix) and then four modes for two to four people.

Grand Prix is a straight out racing game where you have to maneuver through various courses in a specific order. In order to advance to the next, you have to win the previous one. There are also pedestrians and cows you can hit along the way. It’s a very no frills experience, although the death screams of your accidental victims can be quite amusing.

Versus is a just a chance for two to four friends to play any of the race tracks. Item Mode is the same thing, but you can get various power-ups (both good or bad) for your car. Finally there is Get Ahead mode, which is a two player mode where you keep racing until one player gets far enough ahead of or behind the other to win. This is easily the worst mode of the lot because it simply doesn’t work properly. I found that it is very arbitrary as to who wins. For example, I did a race in reverse, going backwards against the track and I constantly won against my friend who was playing it properly and was, in fact, ahead of me. Ugh.

Really this is a standard racing game without any real frills. It feels like Item Mode should have been the main mode instead of Grand Prix and it REALLY feels like this should have been accessible with only a single player as well as it is the most fun. It’s only about a twenty five dollar game (It’s 15 GBP), but it felt rather shallow and unfinished. I can’t say any of us especially enjoyed multiplayer due to the controls and pretty much anything and everything triggering a “bad lap” condition, and single player mode was also a bit dull. Again, maybe if Item Mode was available for single players, or the game didn’t have several pretty big issues that we’ll talk about later, it could have been a pretty nice retro racer. Instead, you just get the feeling things aren’t quite right and that the modes available aren’t what they could have been.

Modes Rating: Mediocre

2. Graphics

As a budget game, you probably won’t be surprised to learn there are only six cars available. Each car looks distinct, but the problem is that there will often be multiple versions of the same car on the track, so it can be hard to tell which is yours – especially in multiplayer mode. A simple palette swap could have fixed this, and I was disappointed it wasn’t available.

The game itself takes a top down racing approach, which is a throwback to several 16 and 32 bit racing games. It reminds me a lot of the Micro Machines game specifically. The tracks and the backgrounds are nicely detailed and each level looks distinctive from the others. The cars are also quite detailed for this sort of visual perspective. Again, about the only thing I could have asked for was a palette swap for those occasions when there are four or so of the same type of car on the track.

It might not be a high definition game, but R4 will definitely delight arcade racing and Dreamcast fans with its presentation. Everyone else probably won’t “get it,” but then they probably won’t still have their Dreamcast hooked up to the TV anyway.

Graphics Rating: Decent

3. Sound

The soundtrack was actually my favourite part of the game. Each of the tracks were catchy and fast paced and fit the racing theme of the game perfectly. If you’re going to get a copy of Rush Rush Rally Racing, you should probably pick up the DX version, as it comes with a soundtrack CD of the game. The music is a lot of fun and is a great example of how an indie developer can keep pace with any big name company.

Sound effects were quite nice too. Whether it’s the scream of someone getting run over, the digitized voice at the beginning of each race, the squeal of the brakes around a tight corner or just the revving of the engine, R4 does a great job capturing the atmosphere and noises of a fun arcade racer.

Overall, an excellent job here by Senile Team

Sound Rating: Very Good

4. Control and Gameplay

… and here is where things start to go horribly, horribly wrong. If there was one thing everyone that played this game could be unanimous on, it was that the controls absolutely sucked. Oh my God were the cars impossible to steer at times. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that defines hair trigger better than this. The slightest touch of the D-Pad sends your car careening in that direction. This makes hairpin turns, especially in succession, nigh impossible. It’s even worse with the analog stick, and it became a game amongst us to see how lightly you could touch the controller and watch your car fly off in that direction. Sometimes it would even go in the opposite direction that we pressed, leaving us laughing at how bad the experience truly was. This got to be so bad it was good, but make no mistake about it, IT WAS BAD.

The brakes were equally awful. You would think touching the brake button and steering would help you take a curve in the road easier. Instead, the brakes suffer from the same issue. Just lightly touching the brake button makes your car slow down almost to a complete stop.

Both of these horrible issues combine into something that is god awful unless you are playing with friends, because then you are all equally screwed. Even then, the only way to get past a course isn’t through skill, but by pure memorization of the track and starting to do your turns long before the track shifts in that direction. Thankfully each of the cars plays somewhat differently, and before long, we all started gravitating to the car that had the best handling. Although it was noticeably easier to play, it was still severely spastic compared to other top down arcade racers we have played. Again, this led to the eventual “Which one of these AM I?” experiences.

Rush Rush Rally Racing was a disaster to play, and because of how insane the game responded to the slightest touch of the controller, I can see why the emphasis ended up being on multiplayer over single player. This really needed a hell of a lot more work in this department and I’m kind of shocked it was released in this state. Huge disappointment here and R4 can be so bad in this category that there’s no way I can recommend it to anyone, even Dreamcast completists.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Bad

5. Replayability

Rush Rush Rally Racing has a several unlockables, and even a few achievements that you can accomplish, like “Not killing any humans in a race” or “hitting five cows in a race.” This helps to increase the amount of time it will spend in your Dreamcast, but not by much. People I know that tried out the game with me hated the gameplay so much, the only reason they kept playing was because they knew we all had to deal with it and it became more of a game to make sure someone other than the CPU actually won a race. To be honest, I’ll probably never get any of those people to touch this game again, and I can’t blame them. This is a game that will mostly take up space in my Dreamcast collection rather than something I’ll ever play again.

At least it’s nice to know for those that can tolerate the controls that Senile Team has given you several modes and goals to strive for, with an accompanying award for each of them. For everyone else, this is going to be one of those games where you swear at the controls and then put it down, and let it gather dust for all eternity.

Replayability Rating: Poor

6. Balance

The game has three difficulty levels, but I didn’t really see much of a difference. The computer controlled cars have the maps laid out completely, and so the first few times you do a race, you are guaranteed to come in fourth through sixth (out of six) as you try to figure out the course while dealing with these awful controls. Meanwhile, the computer just goes along its merry way. As well, the game has this absurd habit of giving you a “bad lap” and forcing you to redo it if you go the slightest bit off course. I don’t get this at all, because the levels are pretty big outside of the standard course, and in looking at the overall levels, there are some hidden things if you go off the track, like short cuts and detours. Why put those in if you’re going to be punished for finding them? Instead you should be rewarding the players for finding the things the developers put in. This really rubbed me the wrong way, although it was comical at one point. On one of the city levels, we found a track inside a track that was one big loop, not connected to the main track you were supposed to be racing on at all. Why they put this in, I have no idea, but it was hilarious to watch a friend go around this thing three or four times not realizing he was in a loop. It stopped being funny when we got a “Bad Lap” alert because of it though.

Again, Rush Rush Rally Racing suffers from some very strange development choices and the game seems to punish you for exploring or finding shortcuts, which is exactly the opposite of what a good arcade racer does. This combined with the controls made this an excruciating experience at times, one that makes me wonder why Senile Team decided to go a route that limits fun and hurts everyone because one person in your party went off course due to not having the track totally memorized.

Balance Rating: Bad

7. Originality

It’s been quite some time since we’ve had a racing game for the Dreamcast. Most homebrew games have been side scrolling shooters or puzzle games. Hypertension, which will be out in 2010, is a first person shooter and also is defying the usual choices for a post-life Dreamcast game. It’s nice to see Senile Team trying something outside the box, even if the end result isn’t very good.

I think there’s definitely still a market for top down arcade racers, and kudos to Senile Team for trying to kickstart this sub genre. R4 doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, but it’s nice to see a revival of this type of gaming. It’s been so long since I’ve seen a game like this that it helps R4 to feel fresh.

Originality Rating: Mediocre

8. Addictiveness

It’s a shame that a game I was so looking forward to ended up being a game I really didn’t have much fun with. I tend to really enjoy the Dreamcast homebrew scene, but between the strange programming decisions and horrible controls, I just couldn’t get behind Rush Rush Rally Racing. It was a bit of a Herculean task to keep playing this after an hour of Grand Prix Mode. It took a bit of manipulating to get friends to try multiplayer, and then a lot of cajoling to get them to keep playing after it turned out they hated the controls as much as I did. Although it’s not a “one and done” game, I sure found myself wishing it was. Out of all the indie Dreamcast releases in the past three or four years, Rush Rush Rally Racing is easily the worst of the lot and one I probably won’t ever play again unless we do another Dreamcast retrospective or the like.

Addictiveness Rating: Bad

9. Appeal Factor

Well, it’s a Dreamcast game, which automatically cuts the potential audience to a fraction of what it could be. As well, it’s not a very well done game, which kills it all the more. If you’re looking for a recent Dreamcast release to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the system, I’d definitely recommend Dux or even Last Hope: Pink Bullets over this, unless you really hate traditional shooters. Then you’re just SOL in terms of Dreamcast releases this year unless Iridies turns out to be any good.

With super sensitive controls, strange level design issues, the “bad lap” punishment and more, only Dreamcast zealots or racing game addicts are going to be clamoring for this one. Everyone else really should stay away, unless they’re buying it just to celebrate the Dreamcast’s 10th anniversary. Even then, people – DUX!

Appeal Factor: Dreadful

10. Miscellaneous

As always, I’m really happy that we got another release for the Dreamcast, even if it wasn’t my cup of tea. 2009 was a great year for the system and 2010 promises to have at least one release for the system. It’s great to see Sega’s last system is still alive and kicking in its own way. Kudos to Senile Team for not only making a game for the Dreamcast , but one that is definitely outside the genres we’ve been getting for the last half decade or so from homebrewers. Just because I personally didn’t especially like the game doesn’t mean I can’t respect it or the effort put into it. Plus you know, I really like the soundtrack. I’m still looking forward to Senile Team’s next game, as I can always find something to love about a well done beat ’em up.

Miscellaneous Rating: Mediocre>

The Scores
Modes: Mediocre
Graphics: Decent
Sound: Very Good
Control and Gameplay: Bad
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Bad
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Bad
Appeal Factor: Dreadful
Miscellaneous: Mediocre

Short Attention Span Summary
Rush Rush Rally Racing definitely isn’t the best Dreamcast game released in 2009, but it’s nice to have options. For a top down arcade race, R4 looks nice and has an excellent soundtrack. However, the controls are extremely sensitive and the game has some pretty strange level design issues that severely hinder the game. I can’t recommend it except for people who collect Dreamcast games or who are otherwise forgiving to racing games. If you want to buy a recently released Dreamcast game, Dux is still the best one in 2009 and I’d highly suggest going for that. Rush Rush Rally Racing just has too many flaws to consider it a quality game.


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