As names go, Super Laser Racer sounds pretty hammy, but it actually suits the retro feel this arcade racer attempts to capture. In fact, this project gives numerous nods to computer gaming nostalgia. Its overhead view is reminiscent of a Super Sprint style game, the small nimble ships that nip round the tracks resemble wire-framed refugees from Elite (flat versions, of course), and the striped turbo-boost pads put one in mind of Wipeout.
Naturally enough, the object is simply to win by hitting all the turbo pads while still managing to steer around the corners. Stray into the electromagnetic field at the sides of the track and not only do you get slowed down, but also damaged. An offensive arsenal provides the other variable, with weapon crates to pick up that include lasers, mines, bombs and guided missiles, along with utility power-ups such as shields and turbos.
When zooming around the track, the handling feels satisfyingly tight and nippy, although that does rather depend on which ship you select. Each has attributes, and some concentrate on big shields and powerful engines while steering like a brick. We avoided these types and mostly stuck to the manoeuvrable craft, as turning quickly seemed vital, particularly on the more twisty of the twelve tracks.
There are also twelve ships in total, with new ones being unlocked as you conquer the twelve tournaments which are spread over easy, normal and hard skill levels. There’s no in-depth career mode or any elaborate presentation or structure: it’s just simple, straightforward racing and blasting (although the most extensive tournament offers a full season of twelve races).
Yet Super Laser Racer manages to be extremely more-ish. The neat arcade handling counts for a lot, as do the moments when you blow away the race leader with a stream of expertly aimed cannon shots. It definitely helps that the computer controlled ships behave in an authentic manner, jockeying for position and lining up laser blasts just as a human player would. They don’t pick on you, either, and will just as soon take out a fellow CPU ship if there’s a choice of targets.
There’s no feeling that the game is made artificially difficult, or that the computer cheats by giving itself power-ups and such. The level of challenge is nicely tuned: even though the normal difficulty tournaments lean a touch towards the easy end of the scale, the hard setting certainly provides a worthy test. Particularly when it comes to a full season of races.
Not everything is well in the land of laser racing, mind you. The ship balance could certainly be worked on, as the attributes of some are clearly superior to others. One ship, for example, is identical to another save for one less point of acceleration, so why on Earth you’d pick it is anyone’s guess. Also, the one-off races are a touch pants. The survival quick race, where the last one alive wins, rewards the tactic of hanging back and staying out of trouble (and leads to very dull, eight minute long races).
However, this is a fair asking price for the indie gaming entertainment on offer. We spent some considerable time zooming around the various tracks, cutting down our lap times and climbing the online leaderboard. A track editor is bundled, too, so if you’re more creatively inclined there’s the opportunity to recreate Silverstone in a dark and desolate vacuum. With added lasers.
Company: New Star Games