The world of racing games is an eclectic bag. There are often titles that go outside the box and set the genre on its ear while at the same time there are titles that stick to conventions that we all know and love and still do markedly well. One sub-genre of racing games that seems to always get a back seat outside of Nintendo’s flagship is the world of kart racing. Enter independent game makers, Rendercode Games and their second entry into the racing genre. With their first street variant of kart racing, they made a fun little title and decided to back that up with an off-road variant. This amalgamation of their accomplishments comes to XBLIG in the form of Racedrome Offroad; kart racing meets stadium offroad.
First thing that stands out as a nice touch is the ability to field your own avatar from XBL and see your mini-me race around the tracks in all their glory. Setup is fairly simple with no more than car color to choose from, pick a track and you’re off against other computer components. While there is a multiplayer function in the game, the several times I tried to find other players to go against, I was met with silence. So while the potential for a solid, cheap and fun multiplayer title exists in this game, actually connecting with people leaves you stranded in the lands of single player.
Loading up the game it seems as if there is a good deal of polish for an Indie game. It isn’t long, however, until you begin to notice that the entire game is ‘copy and paste’ with tracks before it. Straight out of the box on the highest difficulty, you’ll find yourself coming in first on every track once you get used to the rather obnoxious controls. While the commands reach your kart from your fingertips exactly as they should, the game interprets them poorly through bad A.I. that drive on rails and an even worse set of game physics. While the cornering through the turns feels precise and well thought out, the ample air-time you’re given through the many jumps along the course ends up sucking all the fun out of the experience. The karts handle as if their tires are inflated with helium and the stadium is situated on our moon with ¼ the gravity. Once you take to the air over a jump, and there are many, you’ll careen off in whatever direction you were pointed in for what seems like an impossible amount of time. More often than not, this ensures that you land outside the boundaries of the track and the game ruthlessly resets you back to the point at which you last left dirt. This type of balloon physics to a game where you’re primarily traversing over jumps makes for an incredibly frustrating experience. Again, however, this type of experience might be enjoyed more if an actual multiplayer experience could be had.
The initial polish felt when loading up the game stays with it for most of it with the exception of a drop in framerate I noticed when colliding with two racers at once on a track. Other than that, the game seemed to run rather flawlessly. In the end though, the game is 80 Microsoft Points on the XBLIG market. For less than a buck, there is fun to be had if you’re willing to put up with a few of its idiosyncrasies.