There was a time when gaming was easy, when the medium did not take up all one's free time. When a game was just a game. Not so much an experience as a simple pastime. Where open worlds, story and advanced game mechanics were not in focus. Many of us probably remember when you went down to the arcade hall and threw in a couple of crowns to be able to play directly. An intro image and an analogue music loop that started and then it was just driving.
It was a time when character development was a pure luxury. We're talking eighties, early nineties. A shoot 'em up here, some karate kicks there and a really pixelated car that travelled along a linear stretch. Every now and then, that pattern was broken with a great experience that was thought to be the coolest thing you've ever seen, like Dragon's Lair. However, that was not what we wanted. We wanted easy, fast and accessible. Which meant that the crowns lasted a long time. Not a game where "Game Over" flashed angrily across the screen already after our very first staggering step in an unknown world. There was a time when we could pick up our Game & Watch, press the button and then just enjoy small bouncing pixels on a monochrome screen. I'm not saying it was better before, but you can sometimes miss that, in an ever-growing backlog of AAA titles that each clock in at fifty hours plus.
I remember when I first tested Super Sprint. I was not the one who drooled at the mouth when it came to car games, but it looked far too fun to be able to miss. I simply had to try. Track racing seen from a bird's eye view with small fast cars, where you as a driver did everything you could to make life miserable for your competitors. It was brutally difficult and my short fuse constantly burned to the bottom before it exploded, but I did not give up but drove on, trained, learned from my mistakes and after many long evenings I was finally decent. Total Arcade Racing delivers that melancholic longing for frustration like Super Sprint, Micro Machines and American Speedway provided. The only question is whether it is enough in today's gaming climate. Is there still a place for this type of game or is it just that, a nostalgia trip? Something fun for the moment before we dive back into our huge backlog of photorealism and intricate stories.
In any case, there is no shortage of game modes in Total Arcade Racing and there are plenty of options for both single player and local multiplayer. However, my performance has primarily been about single player and above all Championship Mode, a career mode that is also what most reminds me of old times. And it's just as it sounds, a competition that spans several races and courses with prizes in the pot. It can also take time for those who have strong enough nerves and if you would rather jump into even more brutal game modes where full anarchy applies, most elimination competitions are also offered. In total, there are nine different modes; Arcade Race, Time trial, Championship, Elimination, Endless race, Demolition derby, Survivor, Delivery and Car Hockey. Of course there is variation in the different modes, but there is of course a clear limit on how much you can do with such a simple basic premise. There is also a decent set of cars to unlock but even here there are small differences that will not blow you off the track right away. Sure, they have different characteristics but on the whole it seems to be minimal changes involved.
The success of a car game is of course largely dependent on the player's ability to steer the vehicle in question and there is not much to complain about here. It flows well and the car moves as I want, at least after a certain run-in period, because just like its predecessors, it is a certain challenge to steer the cart in a view from above. The further into the game you get, the harder it gets, just as it should be, and it's not just opponents and tricky track design that will do anything to shatter your racing dreams. There are also plenty of obstacles of various kinds that will make your life in the pitcher sour.
As a whole, Total Arcade Racing is a nice addition to the Switch that gives just that feeling of simplicity and accessibility that I can sometimes miss. At the same time, it is a rather limited pleasure for a relatively high price tag, especially in single-player mode where the pleasure of the news quickly settles. I personally would have liked to have seen an online mode. But it's clear, for the right target group, the rating can be higher and if you also manage to shake out a bunch who are eager to play together in local multiplayer, it can certainly even be a podium place.