Chances are you've wanted a remote-control car at some point in your life. But it's also just as likely that you've gotten the chance to take one out for a test drive, found how easily the little machine gets stuck under a desk or behind a doorway, and then, the glamour having faded, moved past the need to own one. That said, Acclaim has created a video-game version of R/C car racing that imitates reality all too well.
The cars in Re-Volt vary in three main factors: acceleration, top speed, and weight (front, rear, and 4-wheel drive are also options). Weight is the most important because the lighter the car, the more likely it'll flip over or spin around. So, the heavier the car, the more control you have. The physics are unforgiving, even on the basic setting; on simulation, they're hell. On arcade, they're reasonable, but still tough.
The gamut of power-ups gives the game a Mario Kart-like quality, so you'll constantly be diving for a new weapon with which to blast the lead cars. A nice variety of items is available, from oil slicks to homing bottle rockets, electro pulses that cut your opponent's power, and an item that turns your car into a bomb (yes, your antennae becomes a fuse), a fate you can avoid only by smacking into another car.
The graphics are fairly sharp with a RAM Pak in place, and its techno soundtrack is surprisingly solid for the cartridge format. Beyond the expected tournament modes, there's also a stunt arena, a track editor, multiplayer races, and a multiplayer battle tag mode (essentially a game of tag). The multiplayer race keeps a fast frame rate, the perspective provides a good view of your surroundings, and you have computer-controlled racers as competition; unfortunately, the battle tag is silly, the stunt area is pretty worthless, and the track editor is as basic and clunky as it was in Jeremy McGrath Supercross '99.
The poor performance of most of the extras doesn't detract much from the game. The basic game elements do that just fine. There are just too many things to vex you in Re-Volt - from a basic corner turn that forces you to spin out completely to a leap off a curb that causes you to flip over, from sustaining constant enemy fire to getting stuck on a wall at the absolutely worst time. It's a common occurrence for you to get knocked back from first place to last place with the finish line in site. This is a game that will at times tempt you to destroy both your controller and your TV. There are simply too many things that can and do go wrong, either in order or concurrently. Think back to the original Wipeout, where you were slowed to a crawl whenever you touched the wall; magnify that experience by ten, and you have an idea of what Re-Volt is like. It's a shame, because all the elements are in place for a great racing game, but they end up turning against you, instead of setting up the sort of intriguing challenge you'd want.