Originally released on Wii U before being ported to Xbox One and, more recently, PS4, Rock ‘N Racing Off Road DX is a top-down miniature car racer which takes very obvious inspiration from the racing classic Super Off Road, which I enjoyed immensely as a kid. Many hours were spent racing around the miniature tracks with a microscopic car collecting nitros and money bags along the way, not to mention connecting a second player with the sole purpose of ramming and blocking the AI cars – now that was fun. Can developer Enjoy Up Games rekindle the magic that I experienced all those years ago, or is Rock ‘N Racing Off Road DX only good for serving as a reminder of just how much fun Super Off Road is?
Rock ‘N Racing Off Road DX’s content is contained within four modes: Championship, Time Trial, Training and Multiplayer.
Training unlocks all five vehicle types from the start and gives you the chance to sample each of the unique handling models. The action plays out on a large octagonal-ish area containing either a set of ramps, piles of tyres (presumably to complete “slaloms” with) or can even be completely empty. Training feels largely pointless sadly, and could do with more obstacles and some elevation to make it worth spending any time with: it feels unfinished and empty and doesn’t help prepare you for what the game has in store for you.
The Time Trial mode tasks you not to complete one lap on one track as fast as you can as you might expect, but rather to complete a championship. Your times for the four 2-lap races are tallied up to give you an overall time which can be seen on the online leaderboards.
The Multiplayer mode enables up to four players to play in local co-op with each other and against AI opponents. Most vehicles and cups in time trial and multiplayer modes are initially locked and require unlocking through the game’s Championship mode.
The main focus of the game lays within the Championship mode. Here you’ll travel the globe competing in five cups, each playing host to four races. As has been the recurring theme, Rock ‘N Racing Off Road DX only grants you access to the first of the five available vehicles and cups, and the remaining content is unlocked in sequence upon winning each subsequent cup.
You start the first cup at the back of the grid but you’ll soon push your way through the pack as AI drivers lose control of their vehicles and jostle for position. Admittedly, seeing the AI cars slam into each other can be comical at times, but it’s not long before you realise how poor they can be. Computer-controlled players collide with each other all too often and inevitably get stuck against the barriers or in the middle of the track. AI vehicles get re-spawned back into the action in most cases, but it’s not unusual to lap opponents as you race to the chequered flag.
That’s not to say you can’t have some challenging and intense races along the way, it’s just that way more often than not, you’ll find yourself finishing first with relative ease. A choice of difficulty would be a welcome addition and would satisfy more players regardless of age and skill level. Don’t expect the challenge that Enjoy Up’s other racer Grand Prix Rock ‘N Racing delivered in buckets – it’s sadly not here.
Completing races, which typically take around one-two minutes will award you with between one – eight points. Drivers that take too long to finish will be timed out and thus receive zero points and you actually start the race in order of your current championship position. After your initial easy introduction oval track, you are next thrust into a far more challenging circuit which requires you to utilise the brakes. Doing so will enable you to slide your vehicle around tight turns which is satisfying when done correctly. Once you’ve unlocked a new vehicle, it can be used in any of the five cups and you’ll race against seven AI opponents who use that very same vehicle.
Choice is key
With the absence of any difficulty options, Rock ‘N Racing Off Road DX’s difficulty is largely dictated by your vehicle choice. Each automotive offering truly feels different and it almost seems as though every vehicle you unlock is harder to get to grips with than the last. The Walker is slow and heavy and suffers from understeer making it a good choice for beginners, whereas the Highlander is faster and more responsive. Elsewhere, there’s the Monster which struggles over bumps (which can be infuriating); the Buggy which feels nimble and is easy to drift; and finally the Speedy vehicle which is of course fast, but can be hard to handle. Racing the Highlander it brings back memories of Super Off-Road, a game which this title tries so hard to emulate.
On the subject of the classic racer, it seems like a such a missed opportunity that Rock ‘N Racing Off Road DX doesn’t have any upgrade system, which is surprising given they are present (and indeed essential) in Enjoy Up’s other similar racer Grand Prix Rock ‘N Racing. Even introducing nitro boosts would add a lot to the title.
After an hour or two, you’ll have won the Championship mode and unlocked all of the title’s content to sample across the available modes. To really squeeze the most from this mode you really need to play again and again using a different car each time. There’s also the aforementioned time trial mode which can be fun as you post ever faster times on the global leaderboards, but most people will probably only spend one or two days with the game.
Rock ‘N Racing Off Road DX has an undeniable charm, the basic and bright coloured environments coupled with the miniature cars never fails to put a smile on my face. Tracks are often littered with elevation changes and bumps to keep things interesting, but in reality there only seems to be eight tracks with three variations on each rather than 24 truly different tracks. Sadly the game’s physics are a mixed bag: going over jumps never truly feels satisfying and can yield very different outcomes. It’s this inconsistency which can make proceedings more stressful than fun when using certain vehicles.
As the name suggests, rock music plays throughout the experience and during the races. Vehicles can be heard starting up their engines just before the off but then are strangely mute during the race. Instead, you’ll hear the soundtrack and the race commentator who yells “where did you learn to drive”, “unbelievable” and “this is just amazing”. Although it may not be quite on par with the truly annoying commentator found in Grand Prix Rock ‘N Racing, it still is somewhat irritating. There’s no option to turn off the commentator either. In fact, there’s no options menu present in the game at all, which is extremely surprising.
Another element that Rock ‘N Racing Off Road DX shares with Grand Prix Rock ‘N Racing are the menus and general presentation. Sadly this includes the vomit inducing race classification screens which use different bright colours on each and every name which can be jarring on the senses.
Overall Rock ‘N Racing Off Road DX is a somewhat enjoyable title to pick up and play, especially with friends, and tries hard to capture the magic of top-down racers of yesteryear but comes up short in a number of areas. Poor AI, unpredictable physics and a very short championship mode make this a below average experience. The game would surely benefit from more tracks that are truly different from one another, smarter AI, a longer main mode and vehicle upgrades as seen in their other title Grand Prix Rock ‘N Racing.
For a night of co-op couch fun for an hour or two, Rock N’ Racing Off Road DX might just do the job if you don’t mind stumping up £6.49. Otherwise, you are better looking elsewhere for some retro-inspired fun with titles such as Mantis Burn Racing, Riptide GP: Renegade and our 2017 indie game of the year Table Top Racing: World Tour all offering superior experiences for just a few pounds more.
- Each vehicle class feels unique
- Charming visuals
- Poor AI
- Very short campaign
- Unpredictable physics
Rock ‘N Racing Off Road DX is a somewhat enjoyable title to pick up and play, especially with friends, and tries hard to capture the magic of top-down racers of yesteryear but comes up short in a number of areas. Poor AI, unpredictable physics and a very short championship mode makes this a below average experience. The game would surely benefit from more tracks that are truly different from one another, smarter AI, a longer main mode and vehicle upgrades as seen in Enjoy Up’s other title Grand Prix Rock ‘N Racing. For a night of co-op couch fun for an hour or two, Rock N’ Racing Off Road DX might just do the job if you don’t mind stumping up £6.49.