Review – Music Racer: Ultimate

Music Racer is a 3D racing game for mobile devices that features the best of both worlds, music and cars. Players play through unique tracks with their favorite songs as they drift around corners in a race to be first across the finish line.

Let’s go back to the year 2008. It was a simpler era. Do any of you recall the game Audiosurf? Remember how much fun it was to play a rhythm game in which you could “surf” over a track with a spacecraft, with the track being produced by reading any MP3 file on your computer, resulting in an almost infinite number of tunes/levels to enjoy? Since downloading MP3s isn’t as cool as it once was, the game has gone into oblivion, but it’s still available on Steam if you’re interested. What I’m trying to convey is that Audiosurf has never gone away, even though certain doppelgängers have arisen to remind us of its golden days. Take, for example, Music Racer: Ultimate.

Music Racer: Ultimate Gameplay

Music Racer: Ultimate isn’t a first-person shooter. Audiosurf, on the other hand, did things better over fifteen years ago.

If you’ve ever played Audiosurf, you’ll be familiar with Music Racer: Ultimate. You choose a song and then attempt to gather as many icons as you can in an automatically produced track depending on the rhythm of that music. There’s no story, no motive outside a few unlocked courses and cars, and no frills. It’s the most arcadey game you’ll ever play. All you have to do is change lanes; there’s no need to accelerate, stop, or do anything else that a “Racer” would presumably advise you to do, since, despite the title, this isn’t a racer at all. I’ll grant that the fundamental premise isn’t horrible at all. It may have been a nice console alternative to a computer-only game, but there are so many problems and bugs in here that the 2008 source material seems more current and polished in contrast.

Music Racer: Ultimate Brightness

Oooooh, the lights have blinded me….

The presentation is the first problem. I’m amazed at how the devs managed to make such a visually beautiful, low-poly, neon-drenched graphic style hurt my vision physically (and I mean literally). Music Racer: Ultimate is one of the most colorful and harsh games I’ve ever encountered. All of the blinding lights, seizure-inducing strobes, and extreme color saturation culminated in a game that caused me a migraine. This is not an exaggeration: I had to lower the brightness of my TV screen in order to play it for more than a few rounds. I also went back to the first background option since it had the least level of detail and hence the least amount of strobing effects.

Sure, the game was a visual nightmare, but how about the soundtrack? There isn’t much variation, nor is there any well-known music, if you count what Music Racer: Ultimate claims to be its “in-disc” soundtrack. This isn’t even its biggest selling point; that honor goes to the game’s music-to-track generator, which allows you to “play whatever track you choose.” While this is true, the many limitations placed in make playing any homemade track much more difficult and irritating than it should have been for such a little, carefree indie.

Tori

Any setting other than the default has really irritating strobing effects.

Yes, bespoke songs may be played, but not straight from an MP3 file stored on your hard drive/SSD, like Audiosurf does. No, you won’t be able to choose a song from your streaming collection (that one is a given). Instead, you must find an internet connection to a music file, which is tougher said than done, particularly because you must manually key in a massive URL in the game’s interface. Otherwise, you may use an abysmal search engine tied to a lesser music provider named Audius. You can’t look up the names of tracks.

You may only search for “artist names,” which are usually people that upload ripped MP3 songs to their accounts on this site. You may be able to play a Kanye West, 50 Cent, or Asking Alexandria song if you’re lucky. You can’t even search by genre. To find anything to engage you, you must go through one of the ugliest menu systems I’ve ever seen. It’s just not worth the trouble. To make things worse, the tracks almost never match the pace of the music, making the total experience seem more clunkier than it should.

Soundtrack

It’s easier said than done to choose a popular tune to perform.

It’s disappointing to see such a wonderful game concept fall flat. Music Racer: Ultimate may have been a respectable sequel to Audiosurf if the process of finding a custom music to play in it wasn’t so difficult, owing to a poor user interface and search feature. Seizure-inducing images and tracks that seldom fit the song’s tempo didn’t help matters either. Finally, a fast and simple method to earn a few awards while also perhaps discovering some new synthwave tunes to add to your streaming repertoire. Just make sure you’re wearing sunglasses while you play it.

 

I adore the visual style of Music Racer: Ultimate, but I despise how bright and convulsive everything is.

The track structure seldom fits the tempo of the music you’ve picked, despite the fact that the controls are straightforward and responsive. When you add in the terrible UI and menu controls, you’ve got yourself a formula for an unpleasant headache.

The limited “in-disc” music is adequate but not very memorable. Custom songs may be played, however it’s a pain to do so due to a poor search mechanism and a dreadful user interface.

Despite the intriguing idea, there isn’t much in Music Racer: Ultimate that Audiosurf didn’t give in a more polished form over fifteen years ago.

Final Score: 4.0

Music Racer: Ultimate is now available on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox One S/X, as well as the PC.

PS5 was used for this review.

The publisher donated a copy of Music Racer: Ultimate.

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