I wonder what’s going on over at Miniclip: On the one hand, they’re churning out some addictive casual games like Gravity Guy (GG2 is even better) and Stickman that are a joy to play even for the thousandth time, but then they go and make Hot Rod Racers, which features virtually every mistake in the book.
But surely there must be something in here for hot rod enthusiasts? Or at least drag race fans? I honestly wish I could say so, because HRR actually could have been an enjoyable time-waster — it introduces a few new gameplay elements that I would love to see in casual games. Intrigued, I played a few rounds to see how this recent release fared on the asphalt, and here’s what I found.
Hot Rod Racers puts you in the driver’s seat of a custom ride to drag race with an AI opponent. Winning a race earns you cash, completing a series of races scores you Crowns, and advancing through levels unlocks new race types. There are a bunch of characters who challenge you to races; taking them down requires not only precise gear shifts, but also careful spending on upgrades to tackle whatever race type you’re up against.
Presentation and gameplay
We’ve seen a few drag race titles in the Play Store before, which feature similar gameplay elements along with a healthy dose of in-app purchases. Hot Rod Racers unfortunately neither capitalizes on the ‘hot rod’ aesthetic nor does it bring anything new to the table in the graphics department.
The menu, level selection and shop UIs all feel pretty generic, and the graphics are sorely dated, even for a mobile game. The cars aren’t licenced models from known brands, but rather custom vehicles whose renders lack polish and finesse. This lack of attention to detail is also carried forward into the gameplay, which never really feels like fun — even after 50+ races and scores of vehicle upgrades.
For the most part, races involve careful timing to land perfect gear shifts every time, and then you’ll need to nitro boost your way the rest of the way. The vehicles and AI opponents are extremely predictable, which means that you’ll often end up playing -exactly- the same race over and over, shifting at the same instant.
The game introduces some new challenges like ramp jumps with a set distance to soar over and slalom time-based races with traffic cones to navigate — but the controls feel unnatural and the sound is poorly produced, making for a racing experience that’s barely any fun. Oh, and those IAPs begin to creep up on you fairly on in the game, with the usual dual currencies, delayed upgrades and health restoration costs.
Hot Rod Racers vs. CSR Racing
It’s odd to see a new release of a game that’s significantly worse than its near-identical competition. I quite enjoyed CSR Racing, another drag racer that I reviewed here back in April last year. That title got a lot of things right (including graphics, gameplay and overall production), and made for a good time in spite of a similar IAP scheme.
With Hot Rod Racers, it’s clear that very little attention was paid to getting this up to scratch. My main gripe with HRR is the fact that its upgrade system is poorly tooled — buying a more powerful engine and a lighter chassis did nothing to help my car’s top speed and jump distances. All in all, this is one racer that you should skip.