Racing games have been a mainstay of gaming since time immemorial. From Ridge Racer to BurnOut. Gran Turismo to Forza Motorsport. Mario Kart to Crash Nitro Kart. However, no matter how many titles we list in this intro, it’s unlikely you’ve ever played a game like Music Racer: Ultimate.
‘Why is that?’ you may well ask. Well, truth be told, the title woefully tells the story of the game. Music Racer: Ultimate is not really a racing game. In fact, there’s no racing at all. It’s true you’re ‘driving’ cars – as can bee seen in the screenshots on this page – but there’s no rival drivers. No clock, no accelerator. All there is, is your vehicle, the track and the music.
The core gameplay loop, then, is not about speed, handling and finishing first. Well, handling does play a part in the proceedings, but not as you’d expect. Your vehicle has three lanes to choose from and you must navigate between them with a flick of the analog stick or press of the D-Pad. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is.
If you think this sounds a bit like those late ’80s handheld racing games, you’re right. However, there is a significant difference. Music Racer: Ultimate isn’t simplistic because of a lack of technical capability. It’s simplistic because it’s been designed that way. Music Racer: Ultimate isn’t a racing game at all: it’s a rhythm action game.
Following in the footsteps of Thumper, Music Racer: Ultimate brings fast-paced, control-based action to the rhythm action genre. This isn’t Parappa the Rapper, and by the same respect it’s not Guitar Hero. Players are tasked with collecting beat markers spread across the track as their vehicle is automatically propelled down the track, avoiding pillars as they do so.
That in itself is the entirety of the gameplay loop in Music Racer: Ultimate. It’s so simple that there isn’t even a tutorial, tool tips or anything to go by. There’s a Hard mode which, unsurprisingly, makes things harder, and a Zen mode which removes the chance of crashing. Players need simply choose a vehicle, a track, a song and you’re in. However, there is complexity added with the features for the music importing.
Music Racer: Ultimate allows players to add music to their game via the streaming platform Audius, and even play with their own music via WebDAV. This offers endless possibilities to the game’s simplistic flow. While the stock selection of songs is pretty go, a simple toggle to a different menu option brings in thousands of new songs from popular artists, available to drive to in just a few seconds.
Ultimately, Music Racer: Ultimate is not going to be for everyone. However, it can be a relaxing, enjoyable experience in Zen mode perfect for both beginners and core gamers. The option to play to recognised artists also brings in a social element – Music Racer: Ultimate wouldn’t feel out of place offering a few hours of entertainment at a party, passing the controller around the room between drinks and nibbles. And for that, it’s surely worth the incredibly low asking price.