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Formula Retro Racing: World Tour Review – Flashback fun

So often the term “arcade” is misattributed to a game. If you believe some Redditors or forum posters, if something is not ultra-realistic, you should classify it as an arcade title. That’s just not true.

In the purest sense, an “arcade” title is just that, something designed with a physical chassis in mind, with game mechanics based around timed sessions, trying to be compelling enough for you to win coin at a time can interject. Think Sega Rally or Cruis’n Blast.

With that in mind, it’s hard to find a truer example of a modern arcade racing game than Formula Retro Racing: World Tour – and all the better for it.

The current state of affairs

World Tour is a vibrant and accessible driving title and a sequel to 2020’s solo-developed Formula Retro Racing.

Repixel8, aka Andrew Jeffreys, back then created the flat-shaded retro experience himself before releasing it on PC and Xbox One and was surprised at how well it sold. Then came PlayStation 4 and, thanks to CGA Studio, Nintendo Switch ports.

Jeffreys returns for this sequel, but this time CGA also helped with game development, among other elements, namely track design and virtual reality support.

This is still an arcade racing game in its truest form, with time-based checkpoints you must meet as you try to overtake your rivals – getting first place on the most challenging difficulty doesn’t automatically mean you finish a race, since you may still be out of time.

One look at the cover and you might think this is the original game or a downloadable expansion.

No, this is a full sequel, and here’s why…

125% more content

The original Formula Retro Racing consisted of one car, a lonely replica of a single seater racer, which you drove on each of the eight tracks.

You could blast through any location in about an hour – the longevity that comes from beating the game on Expert difficulty, as Justin Towell so eloquently said on the Traxion.GG website recently.

Formula Retro Racing - World Tour track selection

However, this time there are 18 brand new tracks and 10 cars split into two handling types. It’s also around 40 percent faster. Then throw in the VR and online leaderboards and you can see how much bigger the scope is this time around.

Captivating environments

The quantity of the courses is not the main attraction either, but their design. They’re much grander overall.

Paris features a nighttime Eiffel Tower, New York a giant Statue of Liberty, each timed to a specific region of the world.

Formula Retro Racing - World Tour Paris

Take for example the rolling green hills of Wales that adorn the surroundings of the Snowdonia route. Reminiscent of a road trip through the rolling hills, we could almost smell the Bara Brith.

There’s a lot of variety here too, such as the steep-sloping Indiana Oval, where timing a slipstream – which gives you a noticeable speed boost, like a Red Bull Racing drag system, once you’re close behind a competitor – is key to one strong result is.

However, not every venue is a home run, as we found Tokyo, for example, to be too fast and spread the field widely.

Formula Retro Racing - World Tour Oval

But make no mistake – for us, unlocking and experiencing each route was enticing and one of the incentives to play through the main Arcade mode.

Notable, then, that you have to unlock the tracks. Each race can be driven in three levels of difficulty: Beginner, Intermediate and Expert. Points are awarded based on your score mixed with the selected difficulty and they unlock circuits. The reward loop is dour, albeit linear.

drift nation

As we’ve already hinted at, there are two main car types, the second of which introduces a brand new handling model: drifting.

In the “normal” racing cars of this game and the first one, you have to drive them in a strictly constrained manner. Sure, you don’t have to be on the absolute racing line to be fast and clip all the peaks perfectly, but it was a far cry from, say, a ridge racer title where cornering sideways became the standout driving style .

When a tight corner is approaching, brake and try to drive as much speed as possible without sacrificing traction. That stays.

But the second style is ridiculous, over-the-top, driving action.

Formula Retro Racing - World Tour Drift

To initiate the hoop gutting, simply twist the left stick. The drift element is automatic in a sense, you can’t not drift. This isn’t an inertial drift where you have to initiate a slider and then drive it with both analog inputs.

No, World Tour is a much more straightforward, traditional arcade experience. One input, one result, steer you in the other direction to finish the slide or move to the next turn. Heck, small adjustments in a straight line result in a drift that feels a bit unnerving.

You can use the touring car style vehicles on any track, but there are special drift marked tracks designed to maximize this special handling technique.

Formula Retro Racing - World Tour, Drift

At times, like in the tighter sections of São Paulo Drift, the mechanic sometimes seems to give way, causing you to slam into a wall, but more often than not it’s a simple swivel that elicits a smile.

Similarly, your AI-controlled rivals can all be gazing out to sea, driving down straights, or blindly ignoring your presence, but somehow that’s part of the appeal. On occasion they can gang up and cause the most almighty brawl, with car parts flying around with more veracity than a Will Smith slap in the face.

Hey, this is racing, sometimes it happens, but we wish they could do laps a little faster.

Virtual reality

A surprising benefit of this sequel is its use of VR for PC gamers. If you start the game with a suitable headset, you will see a reincarnation of an arcade machine in which you play “World Tour”.

Formula Retro Racing - World Tour, VR slot machine

Then once you select the cockpit viewpoint it works beautifully and adds an extra layer of engagement. The varied track designs, which are more detailed than the original, really come into their own in this mode.

We found it wasn’t clear how to re-center – we managed it by hitting the escape key on a keyboard while in the pause menu – so an on-screen prompt somewhere might be a handy addition. Drifting was also more difficult with the headset.

However, this is an excellent addition that helps bring the game to life by looking out your window as recognizable landmarks.

Formula Retro Racing - World Tour, VR gameplay

Always gently

Formula Retro Racing: World Tour is unabashed in its simplicity. It is reminiscent of times gone by but with some contemporary features.

We recently went back and played some older arcade-style racing games on the original PlayStation, and in many ways World Tour reminds us of those experiences, only with modern equipment.

Sharper graphics, a cockpit camera, cross-platform online leaderboards, four-player local split-screen and VR capability. They’re all here, but the gameplay will take you back to this closet hidden in a recreation center.

Formula Retro Racing - World Tour, route

It’s old school, but that’s his whole aim. They will even be a form of physical release for the preservation purists.

The Traxion Verdict from the possible options of Avoid, Consider, Wishlist, or Buy Now is…. Wishlist. Simple, honest, fun.

The Traxion.GG review verdict: Wish list

developer Repixel8, CGA Studio
release date March 31, 2023
Available Platforms PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S
version tested personal computer
Best played with it controller

Full Disclosure: A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Here is our review policy.

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