How many of you played with toy cars when you were younger? Most of you? Okay, good. When you were playing with toy cars, did you ever crash them into each other or throw them around (perhaps not literally) just because you could? Maybe make a few explosion noises while doing so? It was fun, right? And it would probably still be kind of fun if you did it today if you were being honest with yourself. You would think that, then, that a racing game modeled after that—a game, like, say, Tiny Racer—would also be fun. And if you did, then you would be wrong.
Tiny Racer isn’t the equivalent of you having a grand ol’ time driving your toy cars into one another as it the equivalent of you trying to race said cars down a toy track, only for your little brother to run in, yell “mom said it’s my turn,” despite it not actually being his turn, and start picking the cars on your track and chucking them at each other. It’s frustrating, unfair, and it’s really not something that you want to deal with.
Race, Race, All Over the Place
Tiny Racer is a very simple arcade racer, with even simpler controls. There’s a button to go forward, a button to go backward, and a button to reset your position if you fall or get stuck (which I ended up using more times than I probably should have needed to)— that’s it. No drifting, no fancy tricks, no whacky items to use. As someone who doesn’t exactly consider themselves an expert in racing games, I can honestly say that I didn’t mind this too much. There’s something appealing about a racing game being so bare-bones. It’s the kind of experience that really pushes you to do your best, and ensures that you don’t have anything to blame if you lose. …That is, until I realized that there was something that I could blame for my losses.
Tiny Racer truly is a game about racing toy cars—and I’m not saying that just because of the way it looks. True to their real-life counterparts, each of these cars (or busses) weigh next to nothing. This means that if you run into something or someone, you have the chance to get knocked a fair distance away. Once again, this on its own isn’t a bad thing. If implemented properly, this could actually be pretty cool. But nothing about the way it’s implemented in Tiny Racer is proper. Almost every time I hit a car, I would go careening away from them—usually in a random direction that would either send me spiraling off of a cliff or get me stuck inside of a wall or barricade. It’s awful.
At this point, you might be saying, “well, you can’t go flying off of the track if you don’t get hit.” And I would agree with you, there, if it weren’t for one thing; the fact that this game, without a doubt, is always out to get you. Whether you’re to the front, the side, or behind an opponent, they seem to always know where you are; and they want nothing more than to make contact with you. Now, you might think that this is an entirely bad idea; after all, they would get knocked around, too, right? Well, no. Not necessarily. While opponents do still get knocked around some, AI-controlled cars seem to be blessed with the gift of extra weight as soon as they start trying to go after you (and, no, the game doesn’t say anything about the cars being different from one another)—a fact which usually results in you getting knocked around so badly that you end up several places behind where you just were. And, to top it all of, you always start in last place, meaning that, unless you purposefully slow down, you’re going to get caught up in a bumpy traffic jam of a mess that will leave you hopelessly behind your opponents with little chance to claim the top spot from the very get-go.
The courses, while not entirely as egregious as the racing mechanics themselves, are also not great. Part of this is due to how banal they come across as. I literally spent the first several tournaments wondering whether I was actually racing on an entirely new set of courses, or if some of them were just being recycled over and over again. Normally in order to answer a question like this, you would refer to the mini-map. But Tiny Racer has no mini-map. It’s very annoying; and I haven’t even finished explaining why.
Tiny Racer seems to have a thing for hilly race tracks. That’s fine, racing on hills can be fun. But what’s not fun is when the bottom of a hilly section unexpectedly veers off into an unexpected direction, and you have very little time to adjust accordingly because you have no mini-map to help guide you. It’s bad, and I’m not even sure that my explanation has done it justice. I can’t tell you how many times I accidentally went the wrong way after driving up and down a hilly section, but I can tell you that it was more times than I’ve ever done in every Mario Kart game combined—and I’ve played through every single one of them. Also, there were times when I would literally “hit” nothing and go flying off-course. Like… what?
Spinning Your Wheels
Tiny Racer has a cool concept, but its execution is anything but. And, based on the fact that the official trailer linked above has almost as many dislikes as likes (as of the posting of this review) with the comment section turned off, I think that IceTorch Interactive knows it, too. This game very much places like some kind of incomplete proof of concept, and, unless the devs release one heck of a 2.0 patch, I’d only advise this game to people who are both desperate for an arcade racer on the Switch and have low standards.
Final Verdict: 2/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed); Publisher: IceTorch Interactive Developer: IceTorch Interactive; Players: 1 – 2; Released: July 31, 2020; ESRB: E for Everyone; MSRP: $9.99
Full disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.