Sunday, 8 April 2012

Drome Racers (GBA)

This game is a Lego licenced game! This is worth mentioning, because other than a lego logo at the start, you'd never know otherwise. There's no nice friendly lego men like you see in most lego games, just vaguely futuristic-looking cars going really fast.
The coolest and most obviou gimmick this game has is that it uses polygons for the track, rather than the usual mode 7-looking style that most GBA racing games go for. It makes the game look a lot like Virtua Racing, which is kind of funny, since people in the olden days would often joke about how SEGA Model 1 games looked like everything in them was made of Lego! The cars, unfortunately, aren't made of polygons, using the "ugly blobby pre-rendered sprite" style that was inexplicably popular on the GBA, especially for licenced games. The music is worth mentioning too, having a nice Amiga/C64-esque sound to it.
You might think I'm going on about the graphics for so long to put off talking about the game, but that's not true! I just really like this game's graphics. Luckily, the game is actually fun to play, too! There are four championships of escalating difficulty, though you only start with the easiest, and unlock the rest one at a time. Most people would probably play them in that order, but why force them to like that? Some people might want to go straight for the normal difficulty, and a few might even want to go straight to hard! Tsk.
The difficulty curve is almost perfect, except for one problem. The problem being that the AI cars will seemingly have different abilities in each race, meaning that as long as you come in first at least once in a championship, you'll probably win it, since the AI players have so few points because they finish in a completely different place each time. If the AI teams had different distinct skill levels, so there was always one or two of them that were near equal to you from race to race, I think that would have been a great improvement.
The actual racing is pretty fun, and the game moves nice and smoothly, too. There are power-ups, in this game, of two kinds: weapons and boosts. They're assigned to different buttons, so you can carry one of each, which is nice. The weapons are the usual racing game weapons: missile, mine, homing missile, etc. They don't really affect the outcome of the race compared to weapons in most racing games that have them. The game probably would have been slightly better had they been left out, even.
The boosts, however are very important. There are two kinds: the kind that you can store (only one at a time, though) and use whenever you like, and the kind that are used as soon as you drive over them. Collecting and using the boosts strategically isn't 100% vital to winning, but you'll have a hard time doing so otherwise. It's a good idea to get the instant boosts as much as possible, and to use your stored boosts on every straight. Two other boost-related points: they seem to last a little longer if you can avoid bumping into things, so do that, and if you're boosting when you go over a hill, you'll soar through the air, which looks and feels really cool.
Overall, this game is great, despite the complete lack of tension in the championships.
Oh, and there are also drag races to decide which place you'll start in before each race, but they're pointless, since it's pretty easy to just charge straight into first once the race begins, anyway. And I forgot to mention the completely hateful slippy-slidy ice tracks that appear a lot later in the game. Boo.

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