A Quick Look At Rush Rush Rally Racing

Rush Rush Rally Racing. For some reason, every time I think of this game I can't help but say the title in my head to the tune of the Power Rangers theme song. Hopefully, now you'll be the same and my plan for earworm world domination via the medium of indie Dreamcast games will be complete. I'm trying to think of other defunct kids' TV shows that rhyme perfectly with Dreamcast game titles; but I've hit a wall and fear I may have peaked way too soon...but I digress.
Rush Rush Rally Racing is a top down racing game released by Senile Team in 2009, and while I've been aware of the game for ages it's taken me until now to actually acquire a copy and play it. I know, I know...I can only apologise. The fact of the matter is, Rush Rush Rally Racing (henceforth referred to as R4) is one of those indie games that has increased in price/value exponentially since it was released and so I've never really had the funds or inclination to buy a copy for my own collection. That all changed recently when I was perusing a stall of gaming trinkets at Revival Solstice and asked if the seller had any Dreamcast games other than the NTSC-J copies of Blue Stinger and Pen Pen TriIcelon he had adorning the table. He produced R4 and was asking only £20, so I bit his hand off. Not literally you understand, but for that price I couldn't refuse.
That said, I did endure about 20 minutes of buyers remorse as that crisp £20 note was the only cash I had on my person, I desperately needed a drink and the nearest cash point was a good 15 minute walk away from the event. This momentary bout of negative introspection was soon allayed when I slapped my new disc into one of the myriad Dreamcasts I had at the event though, and here's why: Rush Rush Rally Racing is bloody brilliant.

Before I continue, I want to make it clear that this isn't really a review as such - it's more of a blog post where I'm just going to meander through my initial thoughts on R4. The game has been out for a while now and most people will already know the general consensus is that it's a stellar example of indie dev on the Dreamcast. Indeed, we've covered R4 here at the Junkyard many times in the past and our own Aaron 'The Gagaman' Foster created some pretty awesome fan art back in the day (see below and/or go here for larger wallpaper versions). Furthermore, in our recent DreamPod racing special, Lewis Clark from Sega Driven chose R4 as his favourite Dreamcast racing game; so I already had some inclination as to the quality contained herein. That, and the umpteen reviews listed on the official R4 website that proclaim it to be the best thing since sliced bread.
Anyway, back to me. I think the first thing that really impressed my noob eyes when I started R4 was the quality of the intro and the general aesthetic afforded to the menus. There's a great sense of cartoon slapstick humour throughout, and it's clear that a lot of attention to detail was lavished on this aspect of the game. I certainly wasn't expecting such a cool animated sequence upon loading the game and it really planted the seeds that I was in for something good. From there you are presented with some clean and easy to navigate menus and before you know it you're cast into the game proper - within about 30 seconds of placing the disc into the tray I was doing hairpins and trying to avoid running over cows and spectators with my little cartoon car.
Options and play modes for the solitary player are somewhat limited, as you only get the Grand Prix mode to take part in; and this essentially takes you on a whistle-stop tour of the game's 10 tracks, where you must finish on the podium in order to progress. Viewed from a traditional top down perspective, R4 instantly gave me flashbacks of the types of game I used to play during my formative years - Micro Machines, Italian Supercar and even stuff like Skidmarks to a certain extent. I suppose the game which bares the most startling visual similarities to R4 is Power Drive Rally, incidentally one of my favourite games for the Atari Jaguar. Where R4 differs from Power Drive though, is that the emphasis is clearly on fast, frenetic, twitch-based gameplay where a knowledge of track layout is just as important as your reaction speed if you want to succeed. There are no tedious licence tests to take, no repairs to make to your vehicle and no cash icons to collect. R4 is pure, unadulterated arcade fun played out at breakneck speed and fully loaded with nice incidental details. The key here though, is the vehicle handling.
While the game does look nice from a retro standpoint, it's the controls of the vehicles that really grabbed me from the off. The balance between being stupidly fast and over sensitive in the turn is brilliantly weighted with the ability to power slide using deft use of the accelerator. What's more, the surface you're racing on really affects the handling of your car - the same manoeuvre on sand will have surprisingly different results on asphalt, for example. There's a certain satisfaction that R4 delivers in spades once you learn how to slide the back end of your vehicle out, and how much gas to apply to make it drift around even the tightest of corners. Nailing a chicane with pre-emptive nudges of the analog stick or D-pad makes you want to fist pump; and squeezing between the pack on the final corner to cross the finish line in a qualifying position is an experience tough to beat.

Once the initial 'wow factor' of the nicely detailed environments and variety of the racing circuits has faded, you'll discover that knowing how to approach turns and slides on different courses takes over, and this is key to your success...as R4 is hard. Very hard. Not stupidly so, but you need to know the layouts of the courses and train yourself to almost 'muscle memory' levels of concentration in order to win races. For the first couple of hours with R4 I was constantly rage quitting and turning the game off in a huff...but that car handling and the charm seeping from every nook and cranny of the experience just made me want to keep going back and retrying.
As I said earlier this isn't really meant to be a review, it's more me just giving my thoughts on the game...which I guess actually makes it a review if you want to get technical. The reason I keep reiterating this is that R4 is not really known for the single player mode - it is actually held aloft as a pinnacle of multi-player gaming on the Dreamcast. I can totally see why this should be the case after playing the Grand Prix extensively, and with two or more players I can appreciate why R4 should be heralded as the second coming of Micro Machines...but so far I've not actually had the pleasure of playing in anything but single player. Hopefully this will change soon, but I'm not holding my breath as the number of people I actually know 'in real life' who a) live near me and b) actually play games, I can count on one hand. Yes, that is a violin you can hear playing in the background.
The point I'm trying (and miserably failing) to get across is that in order to give R4 a fully justified review would require me to also experience the multi-player aspects, and the fact that I haven't means I'm probably missing the best bits. Don't get me wrong - there's still loads of fun to be had just playing on your own against the AI and uploading your best times and scores to the online leader board via the interesting 'code generation' method, but in this age of online multiplayer R4 represents something of an anomaly: a game that champions local multi-player that could probably have just shipped without a single-player mode...but that does have a single-player mode that's also pretty damn good. I know I'm repeating myself but this is my article goddammit, and you'll read every last word, so help me Zeus. See - I can write what I want and you're still reading it. And now you're thinking about the Power Rangers theme tune too. See? Magic.
Right, I've waffled on long enough now so I'm going to wrap this up by saying (writing?) that Rush Rush Rally Racing is a fantastic title even if you don't have the option of playing the multi-player games on offer. The vehicle handling is amazingly intuitive, it sounds great and the game is peppered with numerous imaginative details (just don't hit the cows!); and while it's very difficult if you're generally shit at games like I am, with perseverance there's a lot of fun to be had. On the subject of other versions, I believe a Wii port is available with extra single-player modes and tracks so you should check that out too if you have the ability...but regardless of the format you experience Rush Rush Rally Racing on, the love and attention that was extended by Senile Team is plain to see. For these reasons, I can't recommend it highly enough - even if you are spending your last £20 on it.

If you'd like to know even more about Rush Rush Rally Racing, head to the brilliant official website; and once you're finished there be sure to visit Senile Team's website too.

4 comments:

Mr. Peter Stevens said...

Nice write up. It is a fantastic game.

Tom Charnock said...

Thanks for reading Mr Stevens - you are correct sir. Tis a great game!

Unknown said...

Not sure where to post this, but for those (at least in the US) who are looking for this game, the only place I could find it still for sale on the internet is a seller on Amazon. Just search for Rush Rush Rally Racing and it'll come up. It's $35 plus $2.47 shipping. They had 7 copies after I bought mine and still have 7 as of today. I received my copy quickly and played this morning for the first time. Super fun!

Sascha Grant said...

I ordered RRRR from Redspot games - they were happy to take my money but never shipped :( no response to emails, nothing. Very disappointed :( looks like an awesome game.