STAFF REVIEW of Horizon Chase Turbo (Xbox One)

Wednesday, January 16, 2019.
by Chad Goodmurphy

Horizon Chase Turbo Box art As a child, I was glued to my Super Nintendo and was lucky enough to be able to rent pretty much any game I wanted. My mom was also quite generous, and would buy me a new game every so often out of the kindness of her heart. One such rental that ended up turning into a previously played purchase was Top Gear; a fast-paced and addicting racing game from Kemco and Gremlin Interactive. It was a title that was originally released in late March of 1992, but didn’t come into my possession until years later.

I’ll never forget playing Top Gear. That’s especially true of one night, when my friend came over and we ended up pulling close to an all-nighter playing through its career mode. I believe we beat the game at around four in the morning. At least, that’s when I recall my dad waking up to use the washroom, noticing my bedroom light was on and yelling at us to go to bed. I don’t think we did though.

Why am I talking about Top Gear and some old memories? Well, my latest review assignment reminds me very much of that iconic racer. You may have heard of it, but if not, it goes by the name of Horizon Chase Turbo and is developed by Aquirius Game Studio, which just so happens to be located in southern Brazil.

Like its spiritual 90s predecessor, Horizon Chase Turbo is a very fast, retro racer. It’s one of those games where it feels as if everything is coming towards you, and at fast speeds. This is because the perspective is different from today’s average racer – something that was done out of necessity years ago, when it wasn’t possible for developers to create open world racing games on hardware like the SNES and SEGA Genesis. The result is a racer that gives you a great sense of speed, while also making it feel as if you’re staying in place. It’s a weird juxtaposition, for sure, but it’s one that works well.

What’s impressive about this game is how much content it offers. The World Tour mode – which is the only available option upon first booting things up – is comprised of twelve different worldly locations, ranging from California to Hawaii, with stops in Chile, Brazil, South Africa, Iceland, China, Japan, and several other countries in-between. This boils down to a total of 12 different cups spread across 48 cities, and 109 tracks between them. Needless to say, there’s a lot to look forward to.

Of course, as is often the case, there are also 31 unlockable cars to earn, race and upgrade, with 12 different upgrades made available to players. These upgrades are not purchased through in-game currency, but are instead locked behind optional upgrade races that appear in each city. These need to be unlocked by earning enough points in World Tour mode. Said points are how you progress from country to country and unlock each one, and are added after each race. This is done through a cumulative tally of your finishing position, the amount of coins you collected, and how much fuel you had left at the end of each race.

What’s impressive is how large-scale World Tour actually is. The races may be somewhat brief, lasting only a few minutes due to their short track lengths and limited amount of required laps, but they add up, especially when you’re doing about 10 per country. Things also get progressively difficult, to the point where it’s important to go back and redo events with upgraded vehicles, in order to change a third place finish to a first place victory, or even collect the few remaining coins that you may have missed. If you collect every coin in a race and come in first place, you get a special cup instead of a gold cup, and getting all of the special cups also unlocks a coveted achievement.

World Tour is not the only game mode found within Horizon Chase Turbo, though it is the longest. As you progress you’ll gain access to tournaments made up of several races, an always changing mode that features events that mix random weather types with different courses, as well as Endurance events that ramp up the difficulty and force you to place high in order to progress. Events can even be played in split-screen multiplayer, while one can also challenge friends’ ghosts and track his or her own progress via the game’s global leaderboards.

As mentioned, this is a very retro-inspired game, and one that was designed in order to pay homage to classics like Top Gear. Thus, you shouldn’t expect much in the way of a modern racer, both in controls and in terms of visuals. This is a mostly fair, but still challenging and occasionally frustrating, experience, and it is mostly based around the idea of navigating quick straightaways and tight corners while attempting to move from the back of the pack to the front of it. That’s easier said than done though, especially later on when things get more challenging. If you hit another car’s rear bumper, your speed is depleted, and if you end up going off course and hitting one of the many hazards that border each track, you’ll either flip or spin out. Thus, it’s important to learn the tracks and prepare for their corners, all while making good use of the limited turbo boosts you’re given.

It is possible, however, to pick up one or two additional turbo boosts, but you need to be in the right spot at the right time. As mentioned, coins also litter courses and can be collected for additional points, and the same is true of gas canisters. It’s possible to run out of gas in this game (which reminds me a little bit of another childhood favourite: Atari’s River Raid), so you must remain on the lookout for more fuel.

Visually, this thing looks like a mix between classic Top Gear, a modern mobile game, and something from a 90s movie theatre arcade. It’s 16-bit action, with varied tracks, weather effects (snow, rain, etc.) and day-to-night cycles that come at you in addition to the road in front of you. Courses with lots of hills may cause certain folks to feel sick or lightheaded, just because of the way the game’s perspective is almost first-person in nature. Everything comes at you instead of having you going to it, making it have a much different perspective than what we’ve become used to today. Plus, the sense of speed is phenomenal, with the cars going upwards of 130mph.

Speaking of the game's tracks, it’s important to note that every city offers different geography, geometry and environmental items, be it trees, monuments, city skylines or what have you. Horizon Chase Turbo’s art department didn’t skimp on anything, and the attention to detail, not to mention the amount of effort that went into this thing, is simply remarkable. Every track has its own look and identity, many of them unique and memorable, and they all play differently. Just watching someone play this game is a treat as it is so colourful, detailed and immersive.

It helps, of course, that the music is top notch. Aquirius went to the effort of getting 90s sound designer Barry Leitch to score the music for its arcade racer, and he’s done an excellent job. His name may not be familiar to you now, but he was actually responsible for the great music found in the original Top Gear game, of which this is so reminiscent. On top of that, he also worked on Lotus Turbo Challenge’s soundtrack, and that’s another game that this games seems inspired by.

With all that having been said, it’s hard not to blush about and sing the praises for Horizon Chase Turbo, which is an addictive and engaging experience that feels right at home on consoles despite originating on mobile devices. Right from the start, this game scratched an itch that I didn’t know needed scratching, and brought back great memories that I’ll always cherish. Even when I’ve fully finished all of the tournaments and the optional modes that it has to offer, I keep it installed so that I can return to it for my fast-paced, retro racing fix.

Overall: 8.7 / 10
Gameplay: 8.6 / 10
Visuals: 8.8 / 10
Sound: 8.9 / 10


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