In today’s gaming landscape, the majority of racing titles are comprised of hyper detailed and realistic simulators. While they are awesome in their own right, I sometimes miss the old school retro style of the 16-bit era. Thankfully, Horizon Chase Turbo is here to solve that problem for me.
Horizon Chase Turbo is an arcade racing game inspired by the classic titles of the early 90s. It was developed and published by Brazilian indie studio AQUIRIS, who are primarily known as a mobile developer. In fact, this game marks their first foray into the home console and PC markets. Taking that into consideration, what they’ve made here is nothing short of incredible.
Horizon Chase Turbo is easy to learn, play and enjoy. This is due to the way in which the games driving mechanics operate. As you may expect, accelerating your car will cause you to move forward. However, unlike modern racing games, it also causes you to partially stick to the threshold of the course. It’s hard to explain without playing it for yourself, but just imagine your car is loosely placed on rails.
The only major inputs you have to worry about is dodging your opponents, and manoeuvring your car around the track’s bends. Failing to do either of these will cause you to crash and lose momentum, something you don’t want to do when you’re trying to win a race. You’ll also have to keep an eye out for fuel canisters, as running out of gas will cause you to get a DNF.
The game has over 100 tracks, all of which vary from simplistic to incredibly challenging. The games difficulty comes from learning the courses layout. You’ll find yourself trying to remember where the difficult turns are, where you can find gas cans, and when the best time to initiate a boost is. It’s mixture of fast paced action with spontaneous decision making. This together makes for a massive amount of fun.
There are a total of 4 game modes in Horizon Chase Turbo, all of which cover different styles of gameplay. The campaigns are the main mode in which you’ll visit different areas of the world, and tackle their local tracks. Each location averages 3-4 courses, with an additional special course allowing you to gain upgrades for your vehicles. These impact things like your cars speed, handling and so on.
In the Playground mode are timed exclusive courses. They are updated every week or so, and usually aimed to be on the more challenging side. Tournaments are similar to the standard play mode seen in Mario Kart. You’ll compete in 4 races back-to-back, with the highest scoring player being declared the victor. Lastly, the Endurance mode is where you will go through a gauntlet of races which exponentially get more demanding.
Progressing through any of the game modes will unlock different cars to use. All of the cars in the game are based on real life models. The Nano for example being this games version of a Mini. You’ll also occasionally be given challenge courses to complete, which is yet another way to unlock new vehicles.
The game can be enjoyed in either a single player fashion, or through the use of local split screen. I had a couple of buddies come over to replicate the Mega Drive days, and it was an all around great time.
The art direction of Horizon Chase Turbo manages to take inspiration from the 16-bit era of racing games, whilst also converting the aesthetic into a modernized style. It achieves this by blending low and high-poly themes together, which create a retro but contemporary feel.
The game features a wide array of environments, with are based on the various locations that you visit in the game. These range from deserts to snowy mountains, cities to costal rides, and even some mock racetracks. The incredibly colourful pallet really helps bring this game to life, and, once again, creates a parallel to the old SNES/Mega Drive era.
Additionally, the cars look absolutely stunning. The higher poly count used on these models allow the finite details, such as the rims and grills, to be brought to the forefront. It also doubles down as smart gameplay design, as it keeps the cars as the focal point for the players.
The music in Horizon Chase Turbo was created by the legendary Barry Leitch. For those unfamiliar, he created the soundtracks for Lotus Turbo Challenge and the Gauntlet games. Almost 20 years on, his enigmatic style shines through once again. He encompasses different genres into the OST with influences from rock, trance and house all being very prevalent.
My favourite track, which was hard to narrow down, is a headbanging masterpiece called Vyper. Honestly, take a listen to this song below and tell me you don’t want to start pumping your fist in the air. That’s just one example though, every track in the game is a certified banger.
The sound design for the SFX is also a notable addition. Each one of the cars engines have their own unique sounds, once again acting similar to their real-life counterparts. For example, jeeps have a lot of bass when revving, and the sports orientated cars sound monstrous when in full throttle.
Horizon Chase Turbo is a fantastic throwback to the arcade racing games of the 90s. The gameplay is a great mixture of easy to learn but hard to master, and the different game modes provide you with enough variation to keep you entertained for hours. The graphical presentation of the game captures the retro aesthetic immensely, with OST matching its themes magnificently. If you are looking for a racing game you can sit back and enjoy, then this is one worth picking up.