VRAM: ‘Hotshot Racing’ is a truckload of polygon-packed fun

By Robert Johnson Jr., Arts & Features Editor

Arcade-styled racing games are kind of a lost art these days.

It seems like almost every racing game that comes out these days is either a simulator, think Codemasters’ “F1” series of licensed games, as well as games such as those in the “Project Cars” series, or a weapons-based kart racer inspired by the “Mario Kart” series and its ilk.

Which, of course, I don’t mind in the slightest – I do fancy myself an hour or two of “Mario Kart” every now and again.

However, sometimes I really want to scratch the itch that occasionally pops up, where I want to play Sega’s 1993 arcade smash, “Daytona USA,” and, in that endeavor, I remind myself that I have to plug in my hefty PlayStation 3 to do so.

Thankfully, I needn’t worry about doing that anymore – Lucky Mountain Games and Sumo Digital’s “Hotshot Racing” scratches that itch and so much more.

Originally announced as “Racing Apex,” “Hotshot Racing” is a game that mimics the look and feel of games that were released on Sega’s Model 1 and Model 2 arcade systems, except much smoother by 2020 standards, running at a cool 60FPS with little-to-no slowdown. Packed with 16 race tracks and a variety of game types, it tends to be pretty difficult to put this one down.

As “Hotshot Racing” is a game with lots of character in it, it should come as no surprise that the game’s cast of characters are just as unique and vibrant as the game itself. Each of the eight individuals – each with their own set of four vehicles – have their own unique storylines and reasons to participate in the four Grand Prix featured in the game.

For example, my favorite character – and my main – Mike, races to be the best role model he can be for his daughter, despite not having the best of hands dealt to him early on in life. That’s adorable – and straight-up relatable.

On top of that, the soundtrack, composed by Jason Heine and Waterflame, is just full of funky, energetic, earworm-inducing bops. I sometimes catch myself humming to “Apex Rally” every now and again.

As far as the game itself goes, it is an absolute blast to play … once you get acclimated enough to play on the Expert difficulty level. Normal difficulty is great for easing you into how the game works mechanically, but Expert sends you at blazing fast speeds through the 16 courses, and the fun just skyrockets from there.

Beyond Grand Prix mode, the Single Race mode hosts a sea of content. Aside from being able to play all 16 courses in any order you choose, you can also play two unique games in the form of Drive or Explode and a “Hotshot Racing” take on Cops and Robbers.

Drive or Explode is probably the game type I spent the most time on – outside of my time beating all four Grand Prix on Expert. As the race gets longer, especially if you have it set to be a seven-lap affair, the stakes get higher and the panic sets in deeper – it really made me feel as if I was playing “Wipeout HD’s” Zone Mode on Phantom on the final lap, and that’s a good thing.

The other mode in the game, Time Trial, has been one that I’ve been picking away at for the past week. Battling the staff ghosts is always a ton of fun, and these encounters teach you how to best deal with the game’s track layouts, especially when you decide to take those skills online – they give you a fair challenge that can get down to a couple hundred milliseconds between you and the ghost, sometimes.

Speaking of the online content, the netcode is quite stable and I’ve rarely ever stepped into lag or any glitches, aside from that one time I was stuck in a lobby and had to reset the game just so I could get out.

While I do wish more could be added to “Hotshot Racing” down the line, just so I can keep going back to such a fun game, I feel that where the game is, at the moment, is great enough to call it a favorite of mine for years to come.

Grade: A –  Drifting away to a polygonal world never felt so good.