As the resident racing guy, I’m used to getting games focused around two or four wheels. I can say with confidence this is time I’ve ever had to deal with literal horse power. Wildshade: Unicorn Champions is a kid-friendly, pretty basic racing game that takes more inspiration from kart racers than the sport of kings. Tivola Games have definitely stuck to their mantra of providing cute games but it’s obvious I’m not quite the target audience for this one.
The UI and menus make it clear Wildshade: Unicorn Champions was originally released on mobile platforms. The interface is simple and clean but presents a product that is fairly basic in modes and approach. You have a linear campaign of just under 40 races to compete in. Outside of that there is also a tournament mode which does offer tracks not covered by the campaign mode. Tournaments and single races also allow for local multiplayer.
It’s incredibly easy to control the horses. Whilst there’s a selection of horses and riders, they don’t differ in performance. It’s nice to have a level playing field and boils your choice down entirely to aesthetics. Horse movement is controlled by the left stick with the left shoulder button used to deploy power ups. The right shoulder button is used to engage a drift. There’s not a huge amount of depth on offer but I did like how there was a perfect start mechanic. You can rear your horse up during the countdown with the right shoulder button. Releasing it at the right time allows for a head-start.
Racing takes on a familiar feel. If you’ve played any kart racers you’ll roughly know how races play out. The track is littered regularly with power-ups that can be used to foil your fellow riders. Even in short races, these appear frequently enough to never feel empty handed. All of them felt very useful and most seemed geared towards disruption. Hitting a competitor with them comes with a satisfying message and a yelp from your rider. I enjoy it and the feedback lets you know the damage you’re causing. There’s gems scattered around the course to help boost a meter for a free power up. It’s a generous system and really helps keep the action up.
The tracks are colourful and varied. They all follow the same whimsical aesthetic but it’s surprising to see how many there are. Some of them are complex with sharp, 90 degree turns but they all feel very boxed in. It does mean being turned around is impossible but I’ve definitely lost my sense of direction more than once. Thankfully, most of the races have been tight and entertaining. Some have shortcuts and I never got a true sense a race was lost until I crossed the finish line.
The opposition is occasionally fierce. Being in front can sometimes feel like a poisoned chalice and I have been bombarded out of the lead a few times. Still, the tight nature of the tracks means leaders can also handily drop fire or ice back at the chasing pack. The campaign felt largely trouble free as I won most of the races. Despite this, not many of them felt trivial. Power-ups are so common it’s not worth holding on to them so I would regularly pop one and gain something new seconds later. It’s hectic but incredibly forgiving.
Unfortunately, there’s not much else in the package. The races are usually pretty short and, whilst there are a lot of tracks, I found they blended together. You can unlock new horses but, aside from cosmetic differences, there’s not a huge incentive to try them out. There is a breeding section where you can mix and match colours and patterns but I don’t really see the appeal. Again, I’m not the target audience but you would maybe want more for £35.
The presentation is clean and straight-forward. The visuals are bright and vibrant with distinct locations to gallop through. It performs steadily and I found the notifications that accompanied a spill didn’t clutter the screen much. It’s clear what each pick-up can do and they all have their visual flourishes. Overall, it’s a race easy to read and that’s got to be good for a young audience. Musically, it’s jaunty accompaniment for the racing and effort has been made to give the soundtrack some variety. There’s a really nice, urgent tempo to it that gives the races a more vital feel. Sound effects aren’t much but they do well to indicate when an enemy’s been hit.
Hey, I’m not the person this product is aimed for but I find it hard to recommend for £35. It’s a few hours of fun and, whilst the premise is cheery and well-executed, you could spend that much on something more substantial. For what it’s worth, I did enjoy it. The racing has a nice feeling of chaos whilst being surprisingly forgiving. Unfortunately, it gets old quick and other modes feel a little lacking in variety.
+ Enjoyable, simple racing.
+ Can be very forgiving.
- Lacks a little bit of depth.
- I ran out of things to do very quickly.