Indie Quickie: PolyRace

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What is it and who made it? Pulling components from F-Zero, Wipeout, and Race the Sun, PolyRace is a futuristic hovercraft racing game fueled by procedurally generated content and a slick low-poly, cel-shaded aesthetic. It was made by BinaryDream and published by Plug in Digital.

What platforms is it on and how much does it cost? PC, Mac, and Linux through Steam or DLGamer for $12.99.

How much did we play? I finished 10 of 20 stages in mission mode (earning 34 of 100 stars), a couple daily leaderboard races, one challenge stage posted by another player, and created and uploaded around 10 or so of my own challenges in approximately an hour and a half of total race time.

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements, or other details you should know about? A few times my hovercraft clipped straight through a mountain wall and kept on going out the other side instead of crashing as it should have (not that I’m complaining too hard). I also came across parts of the UI when searching for online challenges where controller input locked up and I had to use my mouse to back out of a selection before I could use the controller again. In general, though, I would highly recommend a gamepad. Hovercraft handling feels a lot tighter using analog sticks versus keyboard keys, in my opinion.

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Why should you play it?

    • Go Ghost Racer, Go: Don’t expect any AI or player-controlled opposition here. Regardless of mode, PolyRace is all about the indirect competition of racing against ghosts. Ghosts of other players, of your friends, of the developers, and of yourself. The mode lineup combined with randomized track generation provides a fair amount of racing possibilities. The three primary race types include a standard reach-the-finish-line time attack, a distance race in which a timer ticks down and you have to reach checkpoints to extend the time, and an endless race where the objective is simply to keep the hovercraft running and in one piece for as long as possible. Mission mode features 20 different pre-set stages which gradually increase in difficulty, from easy to normal to hard to extreme. Each mission has a maximum of five stars to earn at various time/distance milestones, and you’ll either be competing against the ghosts of your previous best scores or, once you’ve met the requirements to unlock them, the developer’s ghost racers. The game’s true potential lies in the Challenge and Race of the Day modes, which revolve around competing directly with the times/distances of other players under various configurations of hovercraft type (there are four to unlock, each with unique handling attributes), race type, environment, and difficulty. In the Challenge mode, you either set a race of your own configuration and upload your top performance for others to try, or you search for challenges posted by others and attempt to knock them off. From either angle, each race provides a capped time limit of 10 minutes, during which you can restart as many times as you wish before submitting your best finish.

    • Let the Polygons Be Your Guide: Borrowing from Forza Motorsport (and pretty much every modern racing sim that has adopted the feature since), PolyRace makes use of a racing line to help with navigating through the procedurally generated desert, arctic, and woodland tracks (more biome types would be nice, by the way), turning red when it’s a good idea to be on the lookout for a hairpin turn. Of course, once you’ve run a particular race a few times, you can then begin to look for opportunities to veer away from the racing line’s guidance and find shortcuts to help shave a second or two off your best time. The mechanic is implemented well as it allows you to pre-visualize where to go even when you don’t have direct line of sight on the terrain ahead, which is important because the game moves at hyper speed and the difficulty of the tracks ramps up rather quickly.

    • Like a Bullitt: Indeed, PolyRace is fast, with buttery smooth controls and the energetic soundtrack to match. There’s a speedy finesse to steering the hovercraft that makes weaving between trees and boulders and mountains while hurtling ahead at speeds in excess of 600 MPH both exhilarating and satisfying. The game comes with a brake pedal, but you’re rarely encouraged to use it. You’ve gotta find the perfect racing line and boost with the pedal to the metal to achieve the best results.

Parting Thoughts: PolyRace is an awesome minimalistic racing game, but unfortunately there is one significant caveat. Due to the way the game is set up, it’s true value comes from a consistently active player community uploading challenges and competing on the Race of the Day leaderboards, which currently doesn’t exist. While I’ve personally uploaded a number of my own challenges for other players to compete against, I’ve only been able to find one challenge posted by another player. In the Race of the Day mode, only four racers participated on the first day, and so far on the second daily race I’m the only one to post a time. The core game plays beautifully, presents a stiff challenge with an addictive one-more-try replayability, and is perfectly enjoyable without other player involvement. However, I’m afraid the game won’t reach its full potential until more racers come out to play. Hopefully with more exposure or maybe a sale at some point the community will grow.

What is Indie Quickie? It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

Disclosure: A review code for PolyRace was provided to VGBlogger.com by the game’s publisher.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!