Developer: AbstractArt; Released: December 26th, 2017
Reviewed on: Razer Phone, Android
Racing games based on music-generated tracks aren’t entirely new to the gaming landscape, although that doesn’t make quality releases any less interesting. The most notable title that comes to mind is Audiosurf, which existed on PC since 2009 and proved successful enough that it spawned a sequel. On the mobile platform, however, if there were any similar games in the past, they were mostly low-quality clones that didn’t offer any interesting elements. And with a huge music library I carry on my phone compared to either my computer or laptop, I’ve been long wishing for something to come along I could compare to the quality of Audiosurf. Having tried Music Racer, which gets straight to the point with its name, there is finally a game on my phone where I can race tracks generated by my extensive music library. While the game is pretty straightforward, and most could consider it as another Audiosurf clone with similar mechanics, the quality of this release makes it worth discussing on its own. With a diverse selection of cars and track designs, powered by a decently good music track generator, Music Racer delivers a satisfying experience that’s well worth checking out, especially at its free price.
The setup of Music Racer is simple: choose your car, choose the design of track and finally, load up whichever song you like from your music library. From there on, the game generates a racing stage to match the pacing of a particular song. It isn’t the most impressive track creator when compared to likes of Audiosurf, but showcases impressive song matching for a mobile release. It is frankly impossible to avoid comparisons here as Music Racer takes extensive inspiration and design clues from Audiosurf, however as I want to point out, this isn’t a bad design direction. Racing speed varies depending on how fast a song is, and varies throughout any level to match highs and lows, as well as fast and slow points. To make the experience more interesting, players would collect points between the three linear lines set across a track. Apart from point collection, one has to avoid numerous obstacles that reset the score multiplier, and hitting too many can reset the score. Music Racer isn’t complex in its design nature, but using own songs makes for an engaging experience, even if you’ll be playing the game in short bursts at a time.
Collected points serve as a form of currency to unlock further race tracks and a decent variety of vehicles, which I found to be a nice touch as it keeps players engaged for the time it takes to unlock everything. This also provides ample diversity to the game experience, as race tracks feature different designs, even if they follow the same futuristic theme. With only three race modes to choose from, Music Racer greatly benefits from having different rides and stage designs. The Free mode exists simply for the enjoyment of user songs, while showcasing the game’s strong design. Normal is what most would be playing to progress through unlocking all of the game’s stages and cars, whereas Hard is the same experience but features quicker speeds and an increase in obstacles. Neither of the three are significantly diverse from one another, and Free mode isn’t worth paying much attention to as it doesn’t earn any points. While I would have liked to see some diversity in actual racing, the urge to unlock all stages and cars is strong enough to engage players for a while. As I’ve mentioned before, this will probably be a game best played in short bursts rather than over long sessions.
A neat feature I found is how Music Racer shows progress in a song through an advancing white bar over the song title. I imagine most won’t need to be reminded how far along they’re into a song, but useful over long music tracks. Built with the Unity engine, the game’s graphics actually look really great for a small download that Music Racer is, with detailed models and diverse vibrant colors. Some track designs do lack legibility, however, especially those created with dark shades, which makes them worth trying out just once and then abandoning altogether. Most of the game’s car selection is modeled after real-world vehicles, although there are a few oddballs like a racing bike and what I can only assume is a flying mechanical bird or dragon. The garage is fairly diverse, and vehicles feature some nice effects matching their color scheme. Among the standout visual designs is your ride breaking into a million tiny pieces when hitting an obstacle, and then forming back together within milliseconds. Music Racer also boasts a good amount of visual options to make the game playable on lower-end smartphones, as well as giving the ability to disable some visual effects to decrease strain on the eyes. There is a lot to like about visuals, and diversity helps to make the game as enjoyable as it currently is.
There is a small flaw to point out, however, and that is the presence of ads. These aren’t frequent, and don’t intrude on the gameplay whatsoever, which makes these ads a very minor issue. I applaud the developers for placing ads after a race and sometimes in the menu screens, as it would make the game a disaster otherwise, if the ads infringed onto the racing itself. Given the game’s free-to-play download, the ads are forgivable, however I would personally prefer to pay a few dollars to the developer and purchase a non-ad version. While this doesn’t appear to be an option at the moment, it’s something many would like to be implemented as well, based on Google Play Store reviews. The ads that play after each race are optional when taking a closer look, and players can choose whether to watch a 30-second ad for a small currency reward, or skip it altogether. This smart implementation of ads stands out given how most free mobile titles jam them in wherever they please. Overall, ads aren’t a big issue in Music Racer, but I would like to see the developer implement a paid version without any ads at all.
Music Racer is a fun driving experience, allowing players to use songs from their music library to generate a racing track, with a music background to listen to. With this title, the mobile platform has a contender to match the unique setup of Audiosurf on the PC platform. As most have larger music libraries on their phones than on computers, this is a great game to play in short bursts while on the bus or waiting somewhere. With impressive visuals for its small size, and the experience available entirely offline, Music Racer’s quality is comparable to, if not better than many racing games on the platform, even those that come from big name publishers. If the design idea here appeals to you, I can definitely recommend Music Racer to many, and it’s free download doesn’t require any purchase whatsoever, even if presence of ads makes me wish for a premium paid version.