The top-down racer is a difficult genre to pull off, at least as far as flash games go. There are a few games out there that ape the classic Micro Machines racers for the Megadrive (Genesis for the Americans out there) and other consoles of the times but not many of them provide the same level of fun.
It could be that I’m just looking back on them with nostalgia-tinted goggles but they were the best at what they did. The tracks were interesting, the gameplay was addictive and they came with a great level editor.
They were also annoyingly tough at times, but multiplayer rocked.
Any similar racer of this type will be judged by Micro Machines. It could be seen as unfair but hey, those games are about 20 years old now and they haven’t been beaten yet.
Let’s see how this one stacks up.
The first problem these games come across is the fact they’re so much easier to control on a console. On a computer, the keys are normally up to go forward and left/right to steer.
It’s normally less fiddly to have the accelerate button mapped to a different area so you can use a different hand for steering. I’ve played games of this type where it’s sometimes difficult to control what you’re doing.
Some games also have the problem where you go too fast or the steering is sloppy, so you have to repeatedly correct yourself on turns.
But here, the controls are great. The speed is just right and the corners are angled perfectly. If you start turning at the right spot, the track is spaced so you can easily turn through a full U-bend or even a full 360 if required.
Now for the important bit, and what makes this game stand out from the crowd – the multiplayer.
Let's do this!
Of course, the key factor that often drags down other racers and saps out all the fun is the computer AI. Enemy racers are tough to programme – if you’re not careful they can become unbeatable or be so thick that you could find yourself waiting around for them to catch up just so you don’t feel lonely.
Async does away with the trouble of programming in enemies by pitting you against other players across the world, and here’s where it gets really clever. You don’t need to wait for other players to sign up with you for a race.
Instead, the game will record your actions every time you play. These recordings will be converted into ghost racers, which will then be pitted against anyone else who plays.
So you could play one level, then a couple of hours later another player will race against the ghost car that you’ve created.
So you can be playing against people from around the world while they’re busy doing something else entirely. This raises all sorts of psychological questions: if my ghost car is beaten by another opponent but I don’t know about it, have I truly lost? Can I overwrite my previous ghost cars and if I do, does that mean they die?
Ah, forget it. Just race.
The graphics aren’t particularly inspiring but they’re pretty enough and the tracks are very clear. The sounds are fairly generic and you can turn them off if you want. A message comes up to let you know when one of the ghost racers has beeped at you, so you don’t miss out on any of the high-octane excitement.
The premade tracks are put together well and introduce the various hazards of jumps, water and dirt tracks that can be used in the level editor.
A special shout out should go to the Milton Keynes Grid – anyone who’s visited the city will appreciate the little in-joke as to how it’s laid out.
The level editor works well – each track is held together by a series of checkpoints you have to go through to finish. It’s easy to make tracks and there’s already a huge selection of user-made tracks out there.
The amount of enjoyment you get out of it depends on how much you like racers. The choice of creating ghost cars means races load up very quickly, and there is an experience system that pits you against racers of the same ability, but I can see that some people would have preferred a way of chatting to people as they race. Multiplayer games sometimes need a little interaction every now and again.
As it is, the only incentive to keep playing is to try to become top of the leaderboard.
Having said that, most people will get some enjoyment out of this and the creator earns himself for eliminating the waiting game aspect that bugs so many multiplayer titles.
Put the pedal to the metal: Async Racing
Written by: Richard Wilson
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