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Chiki-Chiki Boxy Racers (Switch) artwork

Chiki-Chiki Boxy Racers (Switch) review

"Good luck making assembling a group of players ready to spend much time with this disappointing racing outing..."

Chiki-Chiki Boxy Racers is, if nothing else, proof that someone besides me enjoyed R.C. Pro-Am II, the NES racing classic that released so near the end of the 8-bit system's life cycle that far too few people ever played it. Rare made a great game, but I can't imagine it got anywhere near the attention that publisher Tradewest would have liked.

The idea of the game is that you are racing a boxy vehicle around a variety of courses. As far as I can tell, there are only 12 unique courses on offer in all, and those are split among three locales: city, jungle and beach. You start with only a single track available in a given location, but placing third or better unlocks the next track. Placing first also unlocks an additional playable vehicle, with slightly different stats. Once you clear all four tracks in a circuit, you can participate in the GP event, which just has you play all four, back-to-back, with more adept opponents.

Chiki-Chiki Boxy Racers (Switch) image

Visually, the game looks decent. The blocky design doesn't set one's imagination ablaze, but it captures nicely the retro vibe I suspect the developers had in mind. The look is also accompanied by enthusiastic--though soon very repetitive--music compositions that wouldn't have sounded out of place in racing games of the era. And there are simple sound effects in place, about which I might say the same thing.

The most surprising element within the game is the option to choose between two control schemes. The "Stick" option is the default, and highly recommended by both the game's developer and yours truly. It takes a little getting used to (maybe whatever length of time it takes you to clear the first track or two), but it is responsive and well-suited to the typically very curvy tracks. You're supposed to do a lot of drifting to take corners sharply, and that's easy to do with the analog stick but harder to pull off with the "Handle" controls, which closely mimic a more classic scheme. There, you press face buttons to accelerate and brake, and nudge the analog stick left and right to steer in those directions. In either case, ramming up against a barrier or getting caught on the scenery is a big problem. Basically, if you mess up badly you might as well figure you've lost the race (or at least finishing placement that will please you). Fortunately, such huge screw-ups are fairly uncommon.

Difficulty starts out quite fair, with mostly toothless opponents who you should be able to easily beat once you grow accustomed to the controls. As you progress, your adversaries graduate to driving better cars and start knocking you about a bit. If you get in with a pack of cars, it sometimes feels like you're not even able to control what happens. They barely deviate from their course, and you're just shuffled along with them or knocked to the side as a consequence. So it's important to establish and maintain an early lead, but the AI takes advantage of better engines and stays right in the running the whole time. There's also a problem in that the second-to-last track in the final circuit is very difficult compared to any others, while the very last track in the game is a piece of cake. I'm not entirely sure the game's developers had a good grasp of what is hard, what is tedious, and what is not.

Chiki-Chiki Boxy Racers (Switch) image

R.C. Pro Am II kept things interesting by allowing players to upgrade their cars over the course of a season, and to buy weapons they could then use to gain an unfair advantage over opponents when better engines and stickier tires didn't do the trick. There was a fair bit of strategy involved, and things could get fairly intense. Here, such options are nixed. The best you can do is collect glowing stars that appear around the track, which fill a meter and allow you to activate a turbo boost when you think it will do some good. There are also zipper pads you can hit for an immediate boost, though they could send you flying into a wall and demolish the lead you had going, if you're not on target.

If you tire of racing alone, which you probably will because there's only an hour or two of content, you can drag a friend into the middle of things. Or as many as seven friends, depending on how you roll. Besides online (which I couldn't test because I never was able to find any opponents playing at the same time I was, in the early evening when you would figure the most people would be looking for victims), options include local multiplayer using eight Joy-Con controllers (and those work admirably, when you're using the default scheme) or even eight Switch systems. If you're playing with friends in the same room, those who fall behind will be automatically pulled up to the rear of the pack, like in R.C. Pro-Am II. So there's no split-screen play available or needed.

Chiki-Chiki Boxy Racers (Switch) image

Besides the standard racing event, you can also participate in four competitive battles. These are not quite confined to a single screen, but the arenas are still quite cramped and that means neither available control scheme feels up to the task of letting you nimbly move about as you collect coins, paint the floor, knock crates out of the play area or try to score goals with giant soccer balls.

I still like R.C. Pro-Am II a lot, even now. But I'm not a huge fan of Chiki-Chiki Boxy Racers because, while it clearly is trying to mimic that other game, it simply offers too little too late. There are half the courses, half the strategies... half the everything. And since the game is going up against an 8-bit outing three decades later and coming up short, I'd have to say that's not half enough.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (October 30, 2018)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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