We’ve got enormous fondness for classic arcade racing games. If we somehow end up with a pound coin in our pocket in this era of contactless latte purchases, our immediate instinct is to sprint to the nearest seaside pier and thumb it into a Daytona machine. Hotshot Racing, out now on Xbox, PS4, PC and Switch aims to recapture some of that magic in your living room. The only thing missing is a seagull trying to steal your chips.
It does a pretty good job, too. Hotshot’s visual style is heavily inspired by Sega classic Virtua Racing, all stark primary coloured polygons. It’s like racing around the inside of a geometry professor’s head. The difference is that, with your overpowered modern console barely breaking a sweat, it all runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second.
Hotshot also boasts buckets of charm and the characters you have to choose from are a quirky bunch. There’s the trustafarian playboy Aston, who shouts ‘my family owns that’ as he powerslides through a medieval castle and new dad Mike who races cars and yet still insists that the birth of his baby daughter was the best moment of his life. Seems unlikely.
The cars meanwhile are all knowing nods to real world road and racing cars, including some anorak-pleasing deep cuts. All of them handle differently, but are united by the most approachable drifting mechanic we’ve ever experienced in a racing game. Just keep the throttle pinned throughout, only stabbing at the brake when you want to initiate a tyre immolating slide.
The only place where Hotshot falls victim to its arcade inspiration is the extreme ‘catch up’ effect that ensures you never really escape the chasing pack. It’s fine for keeping you in the thick of the action, but it also removes all strategy, because you might as well hoard your boost until the final half a lap and then disappear up the road before they have time to react.
Still, this is a diverting old school racer that scratches that retro racing itch, particularly in four player split screen multiplayer, and probably costs less than you’ve already spent on seafront arcade machines. Certainly less than you’ve spent on pilfered chips…