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Rock 誰 Racing Grand Prix (Switch) artwork

Rock 誰 Racing Grand Prix (Switch) review

"Rock 'N Racing Grand Prix looks like a throwback to arcade racing's glory days, but alas, it's a trap."

Whether you call the game Rock 誰 Racing Grand Prix like its publisher does, or Grand Prix: Rock 'N Racing like Nintendo currently does on the eShop for some reason, EnjoyUp's latest Switch release is a bad time waiting to happen. A pretty good soundtrack and decent visuals can't save the game from failing hard due to spectacularly bad controls and limited design that would probably leave players screaming for more, if only they weren't so relieved to be done with the whole ordeal.

It probably sounds like I didn't enjoy playing Rock 誰 Racing Grand Prix. I don't want to create any misimpressions, so let me be clear: I was miserable for better than half of the few hours I spent with the game. "Didn't enjoy" doesn't even begin to cover it. Which is a shame, because if the developers had done things just a little bit differently, I would probably be singing their praises right now (or at least writing a review with a higher rating attached).

Originally released on Xbox One in May of 2016, Rock 誰 Racing Grand Prix was for several months a platform exclusive. I can't imagine Microsoft was hard up enough to pay for that exclusivity, so the team at EnjoyUp must simply have been exhausted from designing a game and shipping it to the one platform. After resting up a bit, someone must have said "Hey, let's share our masterpiece with players who own a Wii U or a PlayStation 4." So that happened later in the same year. And now the game is freshly available on Nintendo Switch in 2018, further expanding the audience of people who can discover one of the least enjoyable racing games I've ever played.

Rock 誰 Racing Grand Prix (Switch) image

Awful though it is, Rock 誰 Racing Grand Prix isn't a complete disaster. I don't usually pay much attention to soundtracks even while playing games my peers praise for their amazing audio, but this game has only a few selections and that gave me more time to listen to each of them. My conclusion is that they're actually pretty good. There are a few that sound like they could be inserted in a Sonic Adventure game with no one the wiser. And there's an announcer who could probably get a job at SEGA, because he's super enthusiastic about racing and competition. He also doesn't bag on you if you happen to be bringing up the rear. He shuts his trap, like a smart person. So let's call the game's audio a win.

Visually, the game also... well, it doesn't impress exactly, but it's not bad. If you don't stare too hard at the water as you race across a bridge, for instance, it looks pretty nice. The crowds that fill the grandstands to bursting are just a bunch of multi-colored dots, but that still gets the job done. The roads look reasonably detailed, with nice texture work and shadows cast by surrounding architecture. Helicopters circle overhead, with cameramen who want to record the event. And the cars themselves are well animated, flipping through the air, rebounding from barriers, spinning out in dirt, or even just driving down the road in a semi-straight line. That last thing doesn't happen very often, but I've seen it occur on rare occasions and it looks pretty okay.

Unfortunately, there's the rest of the game to consider...

When you start playing Rock 誰 Racing Grand Prix, you can select from four basic options: Championship, Time Trial, Multiplayer and Settings. The last of those is just a screen that displays the controls and lets you adjust the audio. It's pretty basic. As you would expect, multiplayer lets you assign controllers to yourself and as many as three friends, then partake in some split-screen action. You will not keep your friends if you trick them into playing Rock 誰 Racing Grand Prix, I don't think, unless it's one of those "Hey, this game is so bad, let's all play it while inebriated" situations. In that case, maybe you'll be the hero of the hour.

Rock 誰 Racing Grand Prix (Switch) image

Championship, as you probably guessed, is the meat of the game. You start a campaign, which really is just a "season" that takes you through 10 available races. You can score from 1 to 10 points for finishing each race, and the goal is to reach the end with more combined points than each of the other drivers. If you come in first, you probably get a message of congratulations. If you come in second (as I once did, with a single point separating me from the lead) or worse, you are advised that you have failed.

When I first started playing, I unlocked a new course after clearing each race. There are just the 10 courses in the game, so that only lasted for a while. I also earned tokens, which I eventually discovered I could spend in the "Box" between races. Tokens allow you to improve your car's brakes, tires, acceleration, speed, and turbo. You can also switch between a manual transmission and the automatic one that is the default.

Before you upgrade your car, at the start of the first season, it controls like a piece of broccoli strapped to a roller skate. I'm not actually sure how that would handle, which is why the simile is so ingenious; I don't know how the car will handle from one moment to the next, either. Holding down the accelerator is a bad move, because eventually you have to turn. And when you do that, any momentum you built up will propel you forward while your car only slowly starts to veer in the prompted direction. At first, you will run into walls a lot. The tracks are designed so that unless you're watching the mini-map and slowing down before curves even come onto the screen, you're going to overshoot them with infuriating regularity. Once you counter this clever trap by pretty much never holding down the accelerator but instead tapping it occasionally so you roll along at what feels like it must be 20 miles per hour, you will be able to wrest back control of your vehicle and negotiate a few mild curves. Sadly, this is often the point when the car begins to spin out, because driving school zone speeds and turning sharply is more than these automobiles can take.

Rock 誰 Racing Grand Prix (Switch) image

Anyway, that's the car before you upgrade it. After you make modifications--which carry over from one season to the next, so that those credits you keep earning are completely pointless--the car will handle... slightly better. It still runs into all of the problems I mentioned, but there are moments when you start to feel like you're in control. You know, before you crash and burn. Or before the other drivers (who don't always seem quite competent) ram you off the road.

The developers included an option to make things easier. If you crash too badly, a ring appears around your car and you can press in on the left analog stick (if you're using the Pro Controller) to right your vehicle. Sometimes, this will plop you on the road. Usually, it will put you on the shoulder, pointed in approximately the right direction. However, you can only press the button when the ring is visible, and it has a nasty habit of flickering on and off throughout an extended crash sequence. Or sometimes, it won't appear at all and you're stuck driving backward for a bit because the car won't divorce itself from the railing or the sand or whatever.

A moment ago, I noted that one aspect of the car you can upgrade is its turbo. I don't know what the developers were thinking when they included a "turbo" option. I really don't. Probably, it was something like "Well, the car controls pretty good, so let's give the player the option to really haul ass." But that was a mistake. The last thing you want to do, most of the time, is drive quickly. Turbo is just something you get to watch the AI use, as it rockets past you in those rare instances where you start to do fairly well. Yep. There's rubber band AI. It's just not as bad here as it is elsewhere because usually, you're not in the lead or you're about to lose your place because your car has just randomly careened off to the side or run headlong into a wall.

So anyway, the turbo feature is useless and doesn't even feel like it belongs in the game. What's the point of speeding up, even on a straight stretch, if you're just going to have to slow down well ahead of any curve so you can negotiate it? I would be interested in playing a deluxe version of the game that fixes the wild controls and adds a greater variety of tracks (and vehicles, for that matter). Maybe that will come about some day. But until it does, my advice is to stay far, far away from Rock 'N Racing Grand Prix... or whatever they're calling it today on the eShop.

honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (January 07, 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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