Friday, August 6, 2010

Webnesday - Super Laser Racer

About a month or so ago, Steam had easily one of the best digital sales I've seen this year with over two hundred items getting slashed anywhere from 25% to, in the case of a couple games, 90%. One game, Super Laser Racer, saw a 75% price cut and, considering it was originally $4.99 and had an interesting demo, I saw no reason not to spend a whopping buck and a quarter on it. In doing so I've found the best top-down single-player Mario Kart style racer in the history of PC gaming. And I'm not just saying that.

Super Laser Racer looks like what happens nine months after Geometry Wars tells Mario Kart that pulling out is a foolproof method of birth control. You control one of twelve neon wire vehicles and race against the other eleven Super Sprint-style around a track filled with items, boosts, and (most of all) walls. The main thing that causes this to be different than Mario Kart is that, when you get hit with a weapon, you don't come to a complete stop. Instead, your ship/car/window sign/whatever slows down a small amount and can't steer much. Like, barely at all. If you get hit by something on a corner you'll probably find yourself humping the wall like a drunken Broseph. Also, you have a F-Zero style damage system where going off road or getting hit kills a bit of your health and the only way to replenish it is to ride over repair panels. Usually they're at the beginning of a lap but some tracks move them to spots where the paths branch out.

One of the things I find immensely interesting about Super Laser Racer is that, unlike a lot of weapon-based racing games, there's no "leader beater", no "kill everyone" item, and not even a true "red shell" or homing missile. And those exclusions show the difficulty in balancing skill and fun in racers like these. Whoever is in first place has a HUGE advantage with no sure way to bring them back to the remainder of the pack, and the lead gets larger when everyone in 2nd on back is smacking each other around. It definitely rewards skill when you break away from everyone else, but at the expense of a lot of the fun. I never thought I'd say this, but this game makes me miss the Blue Shell.

This game also makes me miss multiplayer. For such a small price from a one-man developer, I can understand that the lack of time and money is a valid reason for not including it in the game. Even still, as I play through the tournaments against the AI racers I can't help but think of how much fun online or even just local multiplayer would be for this game. A game like this can and does get stale after a few hours of just playing against the computer, unfortunately. Thankfully, the game DOES include a track editor, so creating and sharing tracks with others can extend the lifespan of Super Laser Racer a lot if you want it to.

Overall, I did have a lot of fun with the game, and even the medium difficulty setting is ball-kickingly difficult, but the lack of multiplayer really does hurt its chances of getting any attention from me later on. Anyone interested in Super Laser Racer can check out the New Star Games website or just hop on Steam and download it from there, with both methods costing you $4.99.

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