One of the great things about indie games is their unique ideas. They often make games which make you wonder why no one else has tried it before. Unfortunately, Scalextric, from developer Sabec, is not one of those games. In fact, it’s pretty much the opposite. Playing Scalextric, I couldn’t help but think, why would anyone make this let alone play it?
For anyone who doesn’t know, Scalextric is “a track based slot car racing system.” It’s basically a toy that will let you race cars against each other around a set track. The thing is, Scalextric is designed to mimic racing a car. In the real world, that’s absolutely fine. As a video game, though, you’re playing a game, mimicking a toy, mimicking a racing car. This has kind of been done before with the Micro Machines games, but they push the concept so that you are in full control of the car including its direction. In Scalextric, all you are doing is controlling the power going to the slot car. I know this is what you do with real Scalextric kits but why would anyone play virtually when they can do it for real?
Assuming you can get over the fact that the game is pointless to start with, how does it play? Well, it does play. Apart from that, it’s really not good. There are 12 tracks on offer. Each is based on a real-life F1 track (though two are no longer on the F1 Calendar). The tracks are not given their real names, presumably to save money paid out to license them. These track layouts are easily recognisable and do reflect their real-world counterparts quite well. I have to think that this was made by people who don’t really know these circuits, though, and have just looked at a picture of them, as on four of the tracks you drive the wrong way around them. You can also build your own tracks. This works fine though it would have helped to know the area you can build in as you will just be told that you’re going out of bounds without knowing you were anywhere near the boundaries.
The lack of licensing doesn’t stop with the tracks. None of the cars are licensed either. This is a particular shame as the majority of Scalextric cars are licensed. The vehicles on offer are pretty generic, and there are only four of them. With this being a game that is only currently available in Europe and not North America, it seems a strange choice that three of the four cars on offer are based on US models, and the one other seems to be a Japanese offering. There are four skins available for each model, but I would much rather have had a wider choice of cars.
When you are actually ‘racing,’ the visuals are basic in the extreme. The texture on the track looks just like a real Scalextric track. The floor looks wood-like. The cars look . . . car-like. It is a very bland presentation. The track is situated in a very large room. There are a handful of items scattered around the outskirts of the room, but it doesn’t really do enough to stop the game looking very dull. The audio is pretty similar. The cars sound authentic, but that is the only sound when racing. There is music in the menus, but I didn’t even notice it at first as it is really quiet! Once I turned it up to hear, I forgot I had done that when I went into a ‘race’ and the sound of the cars made it seem like a giant hornet had appeared in my living room.
The ‘racing’ is passable, but I would never describe it as fun. The single control option works, but it doesn’t really keep you engaged. You will find yourself flying off the track numerous times when you start out. Once you get the hang of it though, it’s very easy to fly through the game and earn all the achievements in around 30 minutes. When you finish a race, there’s what appears to be an online leaderboard, but despite getting a time that would put me comfortably in the top 10, my name never appeared. One of the most annoying things about the game, though, is if you win. How can winning be annoying, I hear you ask? Well, every time you win, the game crashes. Once the ‘You Won’ screen disappears, the game has a spinning icon (which I assume is it trying to connect online to see the leaderboards), and it continues spinning, and spinning, and spinning. On two occasions I left the game on that screen so long that my console turned off for inactivity. I ended up getting into the habit of closing the game down and restarting it back up every time I won.
Nearly the whole user experience with Scalextric is that of annoyance. Alongside the issues I’ve already mentioned (leaderboards, invisible custom track boundaries) there are the loading times. This isn’t the time it takes to get into a race, though. That is perfectly acceptable. However, the time it takes to get from the leaderboards (at the end of each race) back to the menu is considerably longer than it takes to load up the race. It isn’t like there’s some fancy three-dimensional menu. It’s a static, 2D image.
Another thing that annoys me no end is that there’s no pause menu. In fact, you can’t pause the game at all. In an offline racing game, this is just unforgivable. It also means that if you crash on the first corner, there’s no option to restart. Instead, you have to either wait for the race to finish or quit the game entirely and boot it back up again from the Xbox home screen. Another little thing is that there is no lap counter. You are never told how many laps you have done. Not even when you start a new lap. There is a branded Scalextric lap counter device attached to the track but its screen is a static image that never changes.
Scalextric is one of the most pointless games I have ever played. I don’t understand why you would play a video game of Scalextric, instead of just playing the real thing. The visuals are bland in the extreme. The user experience is appalling. It crashes everytime you win. Some of the circuits are the wrong way around. The music isn’t loud enough in the menu (and would be welcomed in-game). The leaderboards don’t appear to work. You can’t navigate the menu with the d-pad. There’s no option to ever pause the game. And the loading times back into the menu are ridiculous. Scalextric fails in nearly every area. I would rather use the £10 asking price for the game to buy numerous bottles of bleach to drink (please don’t do this, it’s very bad for you).