HTR+ Slot Car Simulation Review

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Title: HTR+ Slot Car Simulation
Developer: QUByte Game Studio
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: Vita
Download:  189 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital

EU Availability: Unavailable
PSTV Support: No

Did you ever have a Slot Car toy?  It was a toy that you set up on a race track that has “slots” in each lane that a car fit into.  You could then race these cars around the track to see who could get around the track first.  I remember having one as a kid, and I know there have been more recent refreshes of the toy as well.  In fact, a friend of mine stated that he had one based on Mario Kart.

Slot Racing isn’t something you see often in the gaming world.  In fact, before a few days ago, I hadn’t seen and played slot racing in any part of the gaming world.  It was something I knew about, but I’d never seen in games.  The closest I’d seen is MotorStorm RC, an early PS Vita title.  Well, now I can talk to all of you about it.  Here’s my review of HTR+ Slot Car Simulation!

Story

Due to this game having no story, this section shall remain blank.

Gameplay

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HTR+ is a slot car simulation game.  There’s really no other way to put it.  The title of the game, itself, is a great representation of what genre it is.  It does exist within the racing and driving genre, but with its unique gameplay, it’s a genre all on its own.

One thing you may not know is that this is essentially an evolution of the mobile game, HTR: High Tech Racing Evolution.  This has been on Mobile for some time now, and a clear free-to-play game filled to the brim with micro-transactions for currency.  Thankfully, this game doesn’t follow the same business model.  But, it’s just a little bit of history in the company and the game I thought I would share.

When you’re playing the game, you have a few things you can do.  From the Main Menu, there is Racing, Car Setup, Track Editor, Ranking, and Options.  Racing is where you can go through races and Car Setup is where you can customize and buy cars.  Track Editor lets you create custom tracks, Ranking lets you check online leaderboards, and Options lets you adjust the game’s options.

Race is divided into 5 sections.  The first is Practice, where you can practice and hone your skills in the game’s unique gameplay style on tracks without any opponents.  Championship lets you go through gauntlets of races in three different intensities.  Extra Tracks lets you play other tracks, one by one, against AI opponents.  Ghost Mode lets you go through and race against your own ghost for high scores.  Finally, Your Tracks lets you race on your own custom tracks.

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Car Setup is where the game’s customization lies.  There are 20 different cars you can acquire and 18 different customization pieces you can buy for them, divided into Engine, Chassi, and Wheel categories.  All of this must be bought, but will alter how your car runs, from acceleration, top speed, and Grip that lets you handle sharp turns better without crashing.

Track Editor is where you can get creative.  This lets you create your own tracks.  There are 20 different pieces of turf you can use as you build, from flat strips of road to Sonic-style loops.  There isn’t an immense variety here, but there is enough that you can spend a good while creating your perfect track to test your skills on.  Once you have created and closed a track, you can race on it in the Your Tracks section of the Race menu.

Actually racing has you and three AI slot cars on a single track.  As you race around, you have a speed meter on the left, showing how much acceleration you’re giving your car.  This is the most important thing to watch.  How fast you’re going will determine whether you going to get through a curve well, out fly out into the forest beyond.  There is a lot of physics to this game and you’ve got to watch yourself the entire time.

Let’s explain this in further detail.  Depending on your amount of Grip customization, your car will be able to handle some curves, but not others.  You need just the right amount of speed.  Going up an incline at maximum speed could net you a nice boost ahead of your opponents.  Or, you could be going too fast and end up launching yourself off the track because of how fast you’re going.  In most cases, you will be constantly speeding up and slowing down to match the track and keep yourself from crashing and burning.

This is where the difficulty lies.  When you first start the game’s first couple races, it’ll give the impression that it’s a pretty easy game.  However, you will soon realize that with each race you beat, the next has a considerably higher amount of difficulty to it.  This gets to the point where you have to constantly be customizing and upgrading your car to be able to keep up with the increasing difficulty.  Swapping difficulties makes it even more apparent.  When I had done all of Normal Mode’s Championship races fairly well, I switched to Hard and the easiest race blew me out of the water.

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This brings up how you upgrade.  While some vehicles will unlock and be given to you upon winning Championship gauntlets on Normal or Hard Mode, upgrades and new cars will cost coins.  You can get coins from winning races.  There’s just a catch.  Whenever you complete a race for the first time on each difficulty, you’ll be awarded coins.  You’ll then get awarded coins whenever you beat your previous high scores in said difficulty.

The problem is that you can only gain more coins if you beat previous high scores.  There’s good and bad about this.  The good thing is that it encourages you to challenge yourself instead of just farming Easy Mode races until you’ve got everything upgraded.  The bad is the fact that the top upgrades and later cars are so expensive that they take a ton of farming by challenging yourself to get the money for it.

At first, you might be thinking this is where the game will throw “Connect to PSN to Buy more Coins!” at you, but it doesn’t.  There are no micro-transactions in the game at all.  While it’s good that you aren’t pressured to spend money on PSN, it’s bad because you have a lot of work to do just to unlock some of the top upgrades, let alone the vehicles that cost substantially more.  Hard Mode will net you lots of currency for these purchases, but getting there will be a pretty big challenge.

The other thing I’ll say is the lack of Multiplayer in the game.  With how intense and competitive every race is, not to mention creating your own tracks, this would be a perfect game for online multiplayer.  However, the game doesn’t have any sort of multiplayer.  It is a single player experience.  While it is fun as a single player experience, it has the feel of a multiplayer game.

As far as length is concerned, the races are all pretty short, making this ideal for handheld play.  Despite its quick play feel with many races being less than 3 minutes in length, I would wager you’ll be spending at least 3 hours or more getting up to hard mode and at least that again to go through Hard Mode, give how extreme that difficulty setting is.  .  Even though races are short, there’s a lot of them.

Controls

Controls go two ways.  You have touch controls for pretty much everything, and almost everything has button alternatives.  I spent a long time going back and forth between the two and, surprisingly enough, the touch controls work and feel far smoother than the button controls.  This is coming from someone who almost always prefers button controls over touch controls.

You can use the D-Pad to navigate menus and the X/Circle buttons to interact with them.  A few menus also have some button options for the L and R triggers as well as Triangle.  When you’re in a race, you can use the Analog Sticks to handle the speed gauge.  Then, you can reset your car when you crash with the triggers or with the D-Pad or Square buttons.  As I said before, there are also touch alternatives to this.

What makes me like the touch controls is the speed gauge.  I find it much more difficult to keep the gauge steady on the analog sticks than the touch screen.  This is because when you’re using analog control, you’re trying to steady your finger.  With touch, all you have to do is hold your finger in place.

Also, one last note on controls.  The game is currently not compatible with the PlayStation TV.

Presentation

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Visually, the game looks very colorful and bright, just like a Slot Car toy would.  It even goes as far as having rooms outside the background of the race, giving the simulation that you really are just racing on a toy track, like when these toys just came out when I was still a young boy.  That really works out for them.

The Frame-rate is nice and smooth for the most part.  The performance I’m conflicted on is the loading screen.  Each load time the game has is pretty short.  I would wager the longest loading sequence was about 6 seconds.  The problem is that instead of smooth transitions between menus, that loading screen pops up pretty much everywhere.  Every menu option you click on, it pops up before it loads.  It doesn’t take a long time to load, but it is noticeable that the loading screen pops up a lot.  Not enough to really be a nuisance to down points for, but something I wanted to mention.

Summary

HTR+ is a racing game in a style that most racing fans have likely never played outside of their living room floor as a child.  The game does have a few drawbacks from over-abundant load screens, eventual farming/grinding for cars and high-tier upgrades, and a lack of multiplayer.  If you’re okay with single player, though, it’s a very unique and challenging racer. 

7/10

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