ForÂ all intents and purposes, Hot Wheels: Race Off is a simplified Trials game. Rather than bikes youâ€™re driving Hot Wheels cars, and rather than just chasing the end of the track youâ€™re competing against an opponent, but those differences are mainly just skin deep. Sharing the same creators, it’s largely the same experience asÂ MMX Hill ClimbÂ — but with the fun of plastic tracks and a familiar brand.
Interestingly though, one thing the game does take to heart from its inspiration is its difficulty. This is by no means a walk in the park, and while the crashes and tragedies are intriguing, youâ€™re going to see them a lot in your first hour of play. But Hot Wheels Race Off doesnâ€™t quite manage to entangle you in the same way as that classic Trials experience. And that means the push to keep going is sometimes overwhelmed by the frustration of watching your best laid plans end in an upside down explosion or a bland running out of fuel.
The game sees you driving a toy car down a toy track. There are jumps, there are lumps and there are loops. And to get through them youâ€™ve only got two controls. Tap one pedal to accelerate, tap the other to brake or reverse. When youâ€™re in the air you can tap the brake to tilt one way and the accelerator to tilt the other way. And youâ€™ll need to, because the leaps youâ€™re performing are going to end in catastrophic crashes if you donâ€™t.
Youâ€™ve also got a fuel gauge that you need to keep an eye on. If it runs out, you wonâ€™t be able to finish a level. There areÂ fuel cans spread out over the levels, but if you mess up too much then youâ€™re going to struggle to grab them before the game ends your run ignominiously.
As you drive through the game youâ€™ll earn coins, and you need to spend these to make your vehicle better. And youâ€™re going to need to be spending regularly. Itâ€™s unlikely that youâ€™re going to finish even the first level without upgrading your attributes a good few times.
Thereâ€™s a twist here in that youâ€™re racing against the best run of some real-life players. Some of them wonâ€™t get all the way through the level, and others will get to the end long before you do, meaning if you want to top the leaderboard youâ€™re going to have to go back with a souped up car and try all over again.
Just getting to the end of a track opens up the next though, so if you donâ€™t want to chase the best time you can focus on the next track that youâ€™ve unlocked. The tracks are well designed, and the game looks surprisingly slick, with your races weaving through a city that seems to be made up of enticing and far away loops and jumps.
Thereâ€™s fun to be had here, but itâ€™s fun thatâ€™s tempered a little too harshly with frustration. Youâ€™ll be grinding your teeth over and over as you try and get up that slope that keeps foiling you. Itâ€™s sort of like smashing your face into orange plastic over and over. But then youâ€™ll get the upgrades that you need, and things will start flowing and youâ€™ll smash through the tracks with a smile on your face. Until the next peak that hurts you, then youâ€™ll go back to the same grind.
Iâ€™ll be honest, Iâ€™ve never played with any Hot Wheels toys, but Iâ€™m pretty sure that if the physical game was this annoying then it wouldnâ€™t have done as well as it has. This digital version is interesting, but itâ€™s not much more than that.