Glow Arcade Racer

Glow Arcade Racer looks good.  The screenshots and gameplay trailer are likely enough to get anyone excited over it.  I imagined it would be sort of like one of those old school top-down racers like Super Sprint, only with futuristic trappings and lots of power-ups.  How could it possibly go wrong?

Well, you should never judge a book by its cover.  Or a game by its screenshots.  Glow Arcade Racer is fucking horrible.  I’ll start with the controls.  The entire game handles like you’re steering a gas-powered puck across a giant Tron-themed air hockey table.  Fundamental stuff like knowing which way your car is pointed become obscured, leading to weird situations where you’ll go off a jump and by time you land, you’re pointing the other direction while completely unsure how you ended up there.  I felt like an old-timer behind the wheel of a real car, only without the fun of plowing through a farmer’s market.

Ignore the Siren call of this screen shot. The actual game is an uncontrollable nightmare.

Control is a big issue, but it’s the little things that contributed to my firm dislike of Glow Arcade Racer.  For instance, on some levels there’s slowdown.  Not a lot, but the transition from smooth scrolling to a stuttering frame rate is akin to having Ice Capades break out in the middle of the Superbowl.  Meanwhile, the camera is operated by a child that was repeatedly dropped on its head.  It zooms  in and out, always at the least appropriate times in a way guaranteed to fuck you over.  You can zoom out the camera, but it leaves everything microscopic, which only compounds the problem of not knowing which way your car is aimed.  The zoomed out camera also crippled four-player local multiplayer.  They did try to alleviate the controlling issues by offering a control scheme called “simple” where both movement and gas are mapped to the left stick.  It doesn’t work at all, which makes me question if the wording was meant as a kind insult.  As in “forgive us for that control scheme.  That was Jeffery’s idea, and he’s.. well.. simple.”

The AI is kind of bitch too.  There doesn’t seem to be any rubber-banding present here, because on the very first course I was able to lap the 4th place driver.  But when the computer controlled racers get weapons, they fire them with unreasonably perfect accuracy, usually destroying you only a nanosecond before you cross the finish line.  The only way to unlock courses is to finish in first place.  By the second course, I could lead the race for every lap and, just a second away from the goal, I would get hit by a projectile and get knocked back to last.  This happened every time over the course of six straight races, mind you.  And once I actually did clear the level, this type of bullshit continued on every new track that followed.

To the game’s credit, the course designs are imaginative and inviting, and the graphics really are very attractive.  But Glow Arcade Racer is plagued with design problems and some horrible technical issues that keep the brakes fully applied.  Here’s a fun one: I’m driving next to a wall.  An enemy crashes into me and pushes me through the wall.  This happened more than once on the second course in the game.  There was no way for me to return to the track except to drive backwards, which causes you to disintegrate and respawn on the course.  The walls were so problematic that I briefly rejoiced once they were taken away after I reached the set of tracks called “Drift.”  As it turns out, the game is even worse without them.  The courses in Drift seem to be designed in a way that no reasonable person could manage to keep their car on track.  I would end up accidentally cutting far enough out that my car would auto-respawn back on course.  I had already rage quit once after the last-second miracle shots I mentioned earlier.  The quit that happened during Drift was one of disgust.

It was also a permanent one.  I’m not going back to Glow Arcade Racer.  The hour I put into it was total agony.  The horrible controls, crack shot AI, and sometimes quite frankly unfair course design left me more angry than entertained.  It’s such a shame, because it really does look spectacular.  It’s the Megan Fox of XBLIGs.  It looks hot, but if you get too close you realize that it’s.. well.. simple.

Glow Arcade Racer was developed by Polar Blue Games

80 Microsoft Points said “it’s like R.C. Pro-Am if you dropped acid” in the making of this review.  I think my Microsoft Points have a problem.

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About Indie Gamer Chick
The most read Xbox Live Indie Game critic in the world.

7 Responses to Glow Arcade Racer

  1. The issues with the controls and difficulty in figuring out the orientation of your “car” were noted multiple times during the course of the review process by myself and others, but enough people were either looking for kickback reviews or didn’t care enough to not pass it and it got through. It’s got potential to be a good, interesting game, but the developer didn’t care enough either to take the time and make the extra effort to make it so. 😦

    • Kairi Vice says:

      When I started Indie Gamer Chick, the most common thing I heard was “nobody actually uses the review process for what it’s supposed to be.”

      Now I commonly hear “people try to help but the developer didn’t care.” It’s sad. This game had potential but everyone I’ve spoken with since the review went live said the same stuff I did.

      Developers, don’t be a rush to publish your games. There’s no deadlines on XBLIG. Do your best to get it right the first time. Nobody knows what the next big XBLIG megahit will be, but chances are it’s not going to be a game where people don’t even know what direction their character is pointing.

      • Craig says:

        Kairi,

        That’s not completely true. There IS a deadline… for getting paid through your creations. You get four “deadlines” to be rewarded for your games submitted in a year. Not meeting one deadline means you have to wait 3-5 months to get paid in the next one, and that can be a big deterrent. And let me tell you, money is the prime motivator in ALL issues concerning XBLIG. You know, since you have to pay to submit a game and you have to spend so much time making that game and getting it through peer review AND micromanage developer relationships(and NOT doing those things right can mean NOT getting paid and wasting money). Sometimes I think, if the XBLIG service didn’t have so much pressure to release a game and get paid for it(maybe have pay periods every month instead of 4 times a year) and not have so many glitches/exploits/developer mingling/list abusing, people WOULD take the time to polish their projects, because they know they’d be justly rewarded for them. Now, that’s not the case, AT ALL.

        • Kairi Vice says:

          Okay, I wasn’t aware of that.

          Having said that, releasing a game that is known to be difficult to control or has known issues is not very bright. I think a game has a better chance of making money if it’s playable. Releasing a bad game now versus a better game three months from now could equal getting a bigger check later versus a smaller check now. It also means you’ll get paid less because word of the game’s quality won’t spread via word-of-mouth.

          Developers, you have GOT to be smarter. Listen to those peer reviewers that try to help you.

          • Dcon6393 says:

            I have to agree with Kairi on this one. Why release a game with difficult controls now if you could polish the game and release it at a later date? Maybe the beginning of the next pay cycle so you make sure to hit the minimum you need to hit. Rushing games on to the service is never going to work out in your favor. The best idea is to release a polished game when it is ready, not an unpolished game when it is not ready.

            • I think the issue here is people treating XBLIG like a business. Yes, you can make money on it, but it’s not at all wise to rely on income from this marketplace. Great games sometimes don’t sell well at all, and lets not forget that Microsoft doesn’t seem to care much about how changes they make affect the indie devs. There’s been the specialty shops fiasco, the ratings abuse problems, removal of the ability to rate games from the player’s game library… etc. All of these things had a huge impact on sales. One got reverted, one got a half-assed fix put in, and the last is still an issue.

              XBLIG is a great place to learn, experiment with new ideas, and maybe make a buck in the process. It is NOT the place the create a full time business. If you are desperate for the money from an XBLIG release you did something wrong. The deadline to get paid for the quarter is there, but if your game isn’t ready for release and you rush it all you’re doing it hurting your total sales in the long run.

  2. My opinion on Glow differs starkly to yours, but that’s largely irrelevant. It’s refreshing to read reviews that are both articulate and reasonably entertaining. A lot of reviewers – even (or ‘particularly’?) professional ones – actually can’t review very well.

    Insincere apologies for the punctuation chaos in that last sentence. I’m a maverick.

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