Since R.C. Pro-Am came out on the Nintendo Entertainment System almost 30 years ago, developers have clamored to perfect the isometric racer. Few have captured the same spirit found in that beloved title, but occasionally you can find a game that captures at least part of it. BlazeRush is such a game.
Top-down racers often fail because they go too far in one of two directions; either they have too much grind and not enough variety, or they focus too much on gimmick mechanics and lose the essence of the race. Luckily, BlazeRush does a decent job introducing unique concepts while maintaining that feeling of speed and overcoming the competition.
You start with a handful of different racers, with three distinct types of cars. There's your normal run-of-the-mill "car on wheels", which has equal parts grip and control. You also get flying cars, which have excellent maneuverability but can be knocked off the track more easily. Finally you have your heavy vehicles, with excellent grip but at the expense of handling.
Each of the racers have their own vehicle, with different stats that never change. At first it feels like a missed opportunity to have not introduced a leveling system, but I eventually found this to be a good thing, since it means you are encouraged to swap racers for different race types.
BlazeRush does a good job mixing up these race types during the career mode. Between the gradual introduction of new powerups, to the challenges themselves, I never felt like I was replaying the same map too many times. The tracks themselves are varied and the environments rotate out at a proper rate, ensuring any race I completed felt unique enough to keep me playing. This is a difficult balance to achieve in this genre.
This is mitigated somewhat by requiring a set amount of trophies to proceed through to the next set of levels. Here you find another well-implemented gameplay hook, as it meant I had to complete tutorial levels and gain trophies in those, before I could move on to more complex races. Overall, I had the skills needed to get to those races once I reached them, and it never caused me to bail out on the game just because I was behind on trophies.
BlazeRush has a number of niggling downsides that cause it to lose a few points. For starters, it is sometimes difficult to follow where your car is if you are fighting for position. Even with a colored arrow at the front of your vehicle, it is very easy to lose yourself in the chaos and end up at the back of the pack simply because you can't see where you are.
Another real gripe is the camera. Despite being the only person playing the game (against AI anyway) the camera tries way too hard to follow all the cars at once. This means if I have a significant lead, the camera pulls too far to the middle for me to see what is directly in front of me. Obviously in a racing game, knowing what is in front of you is paramount, and the mini-map is insufficient to relay this when you're trying to barrel down on the finish line. I had too many races where I lost merely because I was TOO FAR ahead and fell off the track.
Despite these flaws, you can easily say that BlazeRush pulls off what it is trying to do. They may not be reinventing the isometric racer, but you argue that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I've yet to see a title that accurately reflects what we all felt playing R.C. Pro-am for the first time, but BlazeRush does it well enough for the time being.
Nice variety of environments, but the cars themselves get too muddled up together, making it hard to see where you are.
Sound effects are generic but they do the job, accompanying EDM soundtrack is good but it's not like this is rocket science for a racing game.
Using the thumbstick for both acceleration and turning leaves everything a little awkward for a racer that is so chaotic.
Plenty of levels, trophy-gating is just restrictive enough to not be annoying, and different challenge modes mix up the races.
PROS / CONS
- Variety of levels and gameplay modes
- Unlockable characters actually worth using
- Interesting power ups
- Trophy-gating implemented properly
- Chaotic races mean it's sometimes hard to see your car
- Having a wide lead hampers you with the camera
- A.I. can be cheap in coming from behind
- Thumbstick is used for acceleration and turning