Hotshot Racing Is a Low-Poly Ode to the Golden Era of ’90s Arcade Racing

With a development history that stretches back around 10 years, Hotshot Racing has had a protracted run to its final release. Overcoming a 2016 Kickstarter misfire, Hotshot Racing continued to gestate until it officially re-emerged in February this year (under a new partnership between developer Lucky Mountain Games, Curve Digital, and experienced British racing game outfit Sumo Digital).However, it wouldn’t matter whether it was released in 2010, 2020, 2030, or otherwise; with a design philosophy firmly and deliberately rooted in the early ’90s the current calendar date is entirely irrelevant to Hotshot Racing.A low-poly ode to a style of fun, arcade racing that has all but disappeared, Hotshot Racing pays homage to coin-op kings like Daytona USA and Virtua Racing – the most cutting-edge racers of their era (and not just because of the angular nature of their primitive 3D graphics). In fact, the only real way Hotshot Racing could be more early ’90s would be if booting it up resulted in all four members of Color Me Badd breaking into your house wielding Thighmasters to steal your Reebok Pumps and feed your cat to Alf.Of course, Hotshot Racing’s delightfully vibrant and blocky aesthetic would all be for naught if it felt like a turkey to play – but the news here is very positive: Hotshot Racing’s handling model is top-notch. The drifting is simple to execute (and easy to increase and decrease angle with gentle steering inputs), the boost is potent, and there’s a very powerful slipstream mechanic that enables some super-satisfying slingshot manoeuvres. Hotshot Racing boasts an extremely accessible and very refined driving feel, informed heavily by Sega AM2 ancestors like SEGA Rally. The vehicles on offer ostensibly differ due to nuances with their speed, acceleration, and drifting stats, but overall it all seems fairly consistent on first impressions.

Each driver has a garage of four vehicles and car geeks should be able to spot the inspiration for most of them. They’re unlicensed but it’s not hard to make out Hotshot Racing’s nods to Days of Thunder’s iconic Mellow Yellow Chevy Lumina, or the all-conquering Pennzoil R34 GT-R. There’s a huge amount of customisation options of offer, too – from blowers to bobbleheads. The track assortment is also dripping with ’90s flavour, with over-the-top blasts through prehistoric jungles, seaside aquariums, and bustling casino towns all part of the line-up.It’d be remiss of me not to mention the audio, too, as Lucky Mountain has injected ’90s sensibilities into every layer of Hotshot Racing. From the earnest announcer enthusiastically exclaiming your menu selections back at you to the infectiously upbeat music (with fun, bespoke instrumentals for each environment) the passion for making Hotshot Racing an authentic tribute to arcade racing’s golden years seems high.The final version of the game will feature several modes beyond regular racing, including Cops N Robbers and Drive or Explode, but these weren’t yet ready to be experimented with at the time of this hands-on. Fully embracing its throwback nature, Hotshot Racing also promises four-player local split-screen support. This ought to be an absolute hoot, although the current global pandemic will put serious restrictions on your options for same-couch competition.

Fancy getting out of 2020? This time machine could be just the ticket.

Luke is Games Editor at IGN’s Sydney office and will now be singing the Daytona USA attract mode song all long weekend. You can sing with him on Twitter @MrLukeReilly.

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