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Horizon Chase Turbo (Switch) artwork

Horizon Chase Turbo (Switch) review

"Horizon Chase Turbo reminds this critic of Outrun, except with more quantity and some unfortunate flaws."

I never sufficiently appreciated how much fun I was having with games like Outrun and Top Gear back in the day. I realize that now, because when a developer or publisher produces an arcade-style game that is clearly meant to remind me of those good times, I'm totally on board. And that explains why I was excited to play Horizon Chase Turbo when its developer ported it to Nintendo Switch.

A quick look at a few screenshots makes it clear Aquiris Game Studio was heavily influenced by the other games I mentioned above. The official artwork even includes a Ferrari-like red sports car racing along a road. If someone had showed me a screen and told me I was looking at a new Outrun revival, I would have believed them (and not just because I'm sometimes gullible). But the Horizon Chase Turbo developers weren't content to halfheartedly mimic their obvious inspiration. They went all out, with a virtual package that's loaded with enough content to keep you busy for a good long while.

Horizon Chase Turbo (Switch) image

There's a lot to like about Horizon Chase Turbo, and most especially the visuals and audio. The game looks so much like it belongs in arcades that the quarters in my pocket started itching. Trees, grass, signs and lights all look good but not too good, with polygonal edges that for once feel artistic. Nothing on offer is as intricately drawn as surely the artists could have managed, and yet everything looks lovely at high, low and no speed. Realism was clearly not the goal, and yet the different locations resemble their real-world counterparts enough to do the job, an improved take on the scenery I remember from the racing games of my youth.

I'm not usually one to notice the soundtrack, but this game also gets that right. There's nothing quite as memorable as "Passing Breeze" from Outrun, but there are a few tracks that play regularly throughout the proceedings, and they suit the racing perfectly. They're not too intense or heavy on the drums or anything else, just pleasant for a long time without growing irritatingly repetitive. That's a hard feat to accomplish, so congratulations to whoever contributed to that effort.

Another definite strength is the sheer number of courses, which comes out to something like 100 in all. That's a lot of different places to race, and while there are only 12 distinct locations you'll see around the globe, many of the races within one region or another vary substantially. It definitely doesn't feel like you're seeing the same few places repeatedly, despite the huge quantity of tracks available. Some of this is thanks to different buildings and landmarks, but there also are some surprisingly convincing weather effects such as heavy rain and snow, dust storms, or dim lighting at dusk.

Horizon Chase Turbo (Switch) image

Happily, the experience also need not be a solitary one. You can adjust your "grip" whenever you like to use any number of the usual input methods on your Nintendo Switch (I raced with the Pro Controller), or to add another player or two or three. My wife watched me play the campaign for hours while she read her Kindle on the love seat we use for a couch in our tiny apartment, and she volunteered that she could probably never play the game because of how fast it looked. She was right that it looks fast, especially when you watch someone play it. Somehow, though, it feels slightly more manageable when you have your hands on a controller. That's something she found when I finally convinced her to enjoy some split-screen races. For two players, the action is split in half horizontally, and I didn't notice any obvious dips in frame rate or draw distance or anything. I suppose such compromises are quite possibly there, but they certainly weren't jarring.

Finally, the game's Switch version includes an additional mode called "Playground," which players can unlock by playing around a quarter of the way through the campaign. It is apparently coming to other platforms eventually, and offers time-limited events that put a new twist on familiar courses. For instance, you might have unlimited nitro boosts available on a single trip around a track, or every vehicle but yours will be a nimble Volkswagon Beetle wannabe and you're stuck driving an overpower muscle car that has trouble with the curves. There are five challenges available at a time, and their exact makeup changes periodically. That's a good way to add volume to an experience that already doesn't lack it.

Unfortunately, my impressions of Horizon Chase Turbo aren't uniformly positive. As much as I like many of the things the developers accomplished with the game, I ran into some issues that considerably dampened my enjoyment.

Horizon Chase Turbo (Switch) image

The first of those issues was the biggest, and it's the sort of thing you have to accept as a player and move past if you want to enjoy the game at all. Specifically, I'm referring to the way the cars bump each other about as they collide on the sometimes cramped courses. If you strike another car's rear end, there's no crunch. They seem to be made of rubber and they bounce forward while you rebound toward the back of the pack. Sometimes this effect works in your favor, when a car collides with you from behind and gives you a helpful surge, but it's more often an issue all for you, since you start every race in last place and have to spend the first lap or so dealing with frustrating collisions while you pass the slow guys who will inevitably bring up the rear.

The AI milks the heck out of those physics, too. Sometimes, I would be racing and four cars would line up ahead of me, spread completely across the road so I couldn't possibly get around them. They would slow to a crawl so that I pretty much had to hit them or slam on the brakes. Either way, I had to lose a lot of ground. Other times, a car would roar past me, then slam on the brakes so I had to collide with them or swerve wide... which on the winding courses I was negotiating at high speed was a bad deal. In short, the computer-controlled drivers in this game don't behave like human opponents who want to win a race. Their only goal is to get in your way. At least there's no rubber banding going on, though, or at the very least it is kept to a non-intrusive minimum.

Exacerbating the issue with the car physics is the fact there are tokens you have good reason to collect as you complete the various events. Strictly speaking, those tokens are optional, but you'll need to gather a fair few of them to use as currency to unlock later tracks and locations. There are usually around 15 or 20 tokens up for grabs in a given race, and they're hard to see coming in a lot of cases. Furthermore, the AI often positions itself so you have to miss a string of tokens because you'll try to line up to drive over them and the other car will knock you out of place. It just feels cheap.

Horizon Chase Turbo (Switch) image

In an apparent attempt to add tension to some courses that might otherwise lack it, the developers also included an unfortunate fuel mechanic that finds your car running out of gas around two thirds of the way through the longer races unless you pick up the refills sprinkled stingily about the course. However, these are too frequently positioned near road signs of the same exact color, so they can be hard to spot until you've memorized a course. That's especially true since, as I mentioned previously, the races are very fast. This isn't one of those games where you feel like maybe you're driving 40 and the speedometer says 120.

The game also glitches a lot. I'm not sure if others will encounter issues, or if my edition just didn't install properly. I haven't encountered anything quite like it in the other Switch games I've played to date, though. On multiple occasions, the game would attempt to auto-save my progress and it would just freeze. I had to close it and reload, which was frustrating when it meant I lost progress in a multi-race tournament event. Once, I was racing and my "ghost" went zooming past me, slightly off the ground. It twirled like a ballerina, with no wheels connected to the road, which was very distracting. The ghost can be disabled, though, so I did that. Other times, I would load a race and only my car was visible, without any other vehicles. I would try to race and my car would just ram against invisible barriers and not go anywhere until I exited out of the game. It sometimes seemed that something different would go wrong every hour or two of play, even in events I had previously completed without issue.

I've spent the last portion of this review discussing a number of issues I had with the game, but I want to emphasize that while Horizon Chase Turbo has flaws, it still offers a frequently satisfying experience with a very reasonable $19.99 MSRP that the breadth of content on offer has no trouble justifying. If you're looking for an arcade-style racer and you're willing to tolerate the occasional wrinkle and some frustrating moments with bouncy vehicles as part of the admittance fee, proceed. Otherwise, you'd perhaps be better off steering clear.


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Staff review by Jason Venter (December 24, 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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