It’s one thing to hook in the nostalgia buffs by calling your product 'retro'. It’s something else when the game is coded by a veteran from the golden age of gaming. That makes it properly, authentically retro.
Mr Qwak (aka Jamie Woodhouse) is the chap responsible for two of the finest Amiga racing games of the '90s - A.T.R. and Nitro. But the genre has moved on a fair bit since then, with ever increasing levels of complexity and technological sheen.
Well, just because you're on the cutting edge, that doesn't necessarily mean that you’re going to be the best. That's how Mr Qwak is setting out his stall with Retro Racing, stripping everything back to its fundamental components.
There's no Career mode or upgrade path, a la Reckless Racing 2. It's just you and seven other cars, on a series of primary-coloured race-tracks, jostling for a spot on the podium.Retro to Go
The most immediately striking thing about Retro Racing is the orientation of the screen. It's presented in portrait, hearkening back to the original arcade racers from before game design permanently adopted the horizontal format.
It's a deliberate choice, but - aside from the aforementioned retro styling - we're left wondering why. It impacts on the game because there's no room on the HUD for a mini-map of the track, and you can't check your progress against your opponents'.
Admittedly, it does lend the action a more immediate feel. Judging the distance between you and your fellow drivers is a case of waiting until they appear on the fringes of the screen, whereupon it's squeaky bum time.
The controls are boiled down to three buttons: 'accelerate', 'left', and 'right'. No brakes here - you're not going to need them. To power-slide you take your foot off the accelerator and turn into the corner. It sounds incredibly simple, but the driving physics have a surprising amount of depth.
The cars themselves are nimble and responsive, but they each also have a minor weakness in either speed, acceleration, or handling. This requires a level of compensation in each race by hoovering up the appropriate power-up to temporarily remedy the problem.Micro Prix
As the screenshots should indicate, the graphics are nothing fancy. They do just enough to tell you what’s happening. But the AI of the opposing drivers is incredibly devious. They're not afraid to jostle when you try to overtake them, or help themselves to the same power-ups that you're after.
The tracks themselves contain a multitude of pitfalls: oil-slicks, pot-holes, traffic cones. Ploughing into these will slow you down and, annoyingly, removing traffic cones from the track only serves to benefit other cars passing through.
The iPad version of Retro Racing has a two-player mode, where the screen is split in half and each player clutches one end of the iPad to control his car. It's a great use of multi-touch, recreating the intensity of crowding around an arcade cabinet, but down the line an update for online multiplayer would be nice.
There's one major concession to modernity. An in-app purchase is included, but thankfully it's not too obtrusive. You can buy a pack of three extra cars to race with, and these are beefy enough to be worth having.Retro Racing is a polished and balanced game presented in a very modest format. Despite its humble appearance it's more than capable of holding its own against similar offerings from bigger development studios.