Top Racer Collection – PS5 Review

It’s been really nice seeing the explosion of retro re-releases hitting the market. I spent a lot of time as a kid playing older games and, now with the benefit of hindsight, it’s been interesting to revisit them. I’m not convinced many of the CPC games I used to play are any good. One thing I do remember is getting Lotus II for the Amiga. There is something about that era of racing games that really pushes my buttons. Gremlin Interactive followed up that series with Top Racer, a SNES game very much ploughing the same furrow. Top Racer Collection brings the trilogy together in a nice, cheap package.  QuByte Interactive are at the wheel and they’ve managed to do something interesting things along the way.

The Top Racer series has largely followed the same gameplay. You race against 19 other cars to get to the finish line first. Each campaign is a world tour and, whilst they do vary on a theme, the loop is largely the same. Finishing in the points guarantees you a spot at the next race and each location tends to ramp up in complexity.

Top Racer is the format at its most basic. There’s forced split-screen so the bottom half of the screen is occupied by an AI opponent. Typically, they are an ever-present rival that seems more aggressive than the rest of the traffic. It can be fun to glance down at their position or spot when they decide to take a pit stop. You have three turbos you can deploy during a race and it feels much purer experience compared to the rest of the games. You only have a few cars to chose from and each comes with their own trade-offs. Fuel consumption is a factor in the longer races. I tend to prioritise corner speed and, if I can get through a race without pitting, all the better.

Top Racer 2 ditches the split-screen in favour of a solitary single-player effort. I’m not entirely sold on the aesthetic. The cars look especially chunky and they do feel heavier to handle. In between races, you now have a shop to purchase new parts. I like the chance to improve your vehicle and it incentivised me to finish strongly. Points equate to funds so every little helps. There’s also the joy of realising you’re not stuck to a vehicle’s default stats. This game also introduces damage which won’t grind your car to a complete halt but does hamper performance. Pitting can fix the damaged bodywork but I’ve found it’s a lenient system.

Top Racer 3000 rounds out the trilogy by taking it to space. Whilst the first two had you racing into a horizon of famous landmarks, this switches those out for slightly more alien locales. And I do mean slightly. Despite the intergalactic premise, you are still a car and you still need a road. As such, it can feel a bit too ordinary. I do prefer how it looks. Polluted tracks offer fog to impede visibility. The post-race shopping remains but there’s odd optional extras like buying jump pads to hurdle obstacles and grab additional credits. On track, the big change is power-ups. There’s speed boosts, invisibility and the pit lane is retired. In its place, there’s refuelling and repair zones to drive over.

Across the three games, the sense of speed feels great. The handling is pretty simple and controls can be customised if you’re not a fan of the default control scheme. It’s all presented pretty well, although I do feel the new menus clash with the games they represent. It’s a little too clean and modern for my liking. They do serve a purpose and showcase what new things the package has to offer. Quick races and time trails are new additions and there’s some qualify of life additions. Autosaving seems to happen at the start of each cup whilst save states give you a further opportunity to retain your progress. If a cup isn’t going your way, there’s an opportunity to restart it.

Further inclusions add online multiplayer and the chance to create your own custom cups from the series’ dozens of tracks. They manage to do a lot here and I think it makes it an easier product to recommend than if they just put the games out in their original form. There’s even Top Racer Crossroads which, despite promising a new game, feels more like an alteration of the first game. This contains exclusive vehicles but you are largely traversing the original tracks.

The online portion so far has been deserted. I don’t know how many people will be clamouring for it but the options are there to search for specific lobbies, allowing two people to find each other easily. I will gladly take that over trying to find a friend’s game by chance. Ultimately, these modes do add to the longevity of the collection and makes it something more than a basic reissue of three classic games.

I’ve mentioned the menus don’t always mesh with the gameplay but I find the music to stand the test of time. Gremlin Interactive’s always had a good ear for it but the score on offer sets a high bar. You can listen to them in isolation with a sound test and there’s a gallery which contains scans of the Japanese manuals. In terms of archival materials, it’s a light smattering but I’m glad that stuff is here.

Top Racer Collection preserves the original games quite well in a package that seems well featured. The new menus do stick out against the 16-bit gameplay but the racing remains swift and enjoyable. The quality of life improvements largely involve saving but the inclusion of online multiplayer is very welcome. Not all that’s new feels interesting. Top Racer Crossroads feels more like a hack of the first game, rather than an amalgamation of all three.

Top Racer Collection
7 Overall
+ Three well-preserved classic games.
+ Features online multiplayer.
+ Adds extra modes like time trials and custom cups to give the games some longevity.
+ Has a catchy soundtrack.
- The modern menus don't quite gel with the 16-bit aesthetic.
- Online lobbies have appeared barren so far.
- Crossroads doesn't feel like a new game.
Anyone looking to revisit the Top Racer series will have a blast with this collection. The racing remains fluid and engrossing. Having all three games here means players can see how the series evolved over time, although Top Racer Crossroads feels more like tweak on existing content rather than something wholly new. Online multiplayer is a welcome addition whilst autosaves and save states makes individual races easier to repeat. I don't think the new menus combine well with the older graphics but the effort that's gone into this product is pretty commendable.

About Mike

Mike gets all the racing games because he understands that stuff even though he doesn't drive.

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