Following a string of titles such as Audiosurf, Riff Racer is one of the newest games available on Steam that uses a player’s music to affect the gameplay. The title adds its own spin by incorporating driving, resulting in a very solid game that is fueled as long as you are willing to feed it music.
Riff Racer offers up a handful of bundled music tracks, as well, and the title uses a sequencer to flesh out the tracks on which players will race. Players will navigate turns while collecting points and speed boosts, making jumps and drifting. The points earned by these actions are multiplied as long as players stay within a section of the track in time to the music being played.
The gameplay in Riff Racer is simply that straightforward, pushing players through a track where the intensity is in tune with the music. The game does offer a decent sense of speed as players boost to maximum speed, and the player’s final points are tallied after crossing the finish line. Each bundled song has its own leaderboard, and if custom songs feature a readable ID, these songs also feature their own leaderboard to boot.
Once players buckle in, the controls are easy to adjust to, and the leaderboard nature of the game pits players against themselves in topping personal scores. The options allow players to toggle whether or not they control the acceleration of the vehicle, meaning players can either manually accelerate to emulate racing titles a little more or coast along to focus more on the maneuvering.
The number of smaller options such as this afforded in Riff Racer are fairly generous, but the meat of the gameplay is largely unchanged outside of the music pumping through the speakers. Players can scoop up currency that allows them to purchase more cars and appearance customization, and performing well awards experience points for an overall player level. I found even the earlier levels were a grind to boost through, but players with expansive music libraries will be able to use them to power through player levels. I tested Rift Racer with a handful of my music tracks, and each loaded in flawlessly with a respectable load time.
Riff Racer is a game that has very colorful visuals and a sense of speed, and, playing on a gamepad, responded very well to inputs. The sound in Riff Racer largely relies on what tunes are selected by the player, and rounds out a respectable presentation. The graphics give off the “Tron” vibe, which actually works quite well to accent the visuals in a genre that is usually blurred by speed.
The driving mechanics are a nice spin on the genre, but, overall, the longevity and replayability of the title hinges on music libraries and a willingness to stick through some repetition. Riff Racer features a very solid game title under its hood, but its biggest setback is its gamble that players will return to its gameplay time and time again with different music tracks.
Still, the game rolled out of early access with a smaller price tag and the bundled tracks are a bonus to introduce players to some new music and guaranteed leaderboard play. I enjoyed the title in short bursts, and it’s certainly worth returning to here and there – I just don’t anticipate all players will marathon the title.
* Review copy provided by the development team or publisher