Tiny RC cars driving on "wacky" full-sized tracks in real-world settings was a neat idea the first dozen or so times it was done, but it's played out by now. It seems the folks at Summitsoft Entertainment, which is best known for its data backup programs and logo design software, didn't get the memo, and they've unleashed a real stinker in the form of Mini RC Rally on the Nintendo DS.
If you like remote-controlled cars or you're a fan of the Micro Machines games and are able to disregard the fact that this sort of game has already been done numerous times, you'll find that the basic premise of Mini RC Rally isn't terrible, at least compared with the rest of the game. You drive your little car around tracks that are filled with normal-size objects, and you earn money for winning races. You can spend your cash on upgrades, repairing damage to your vehicle, and new cars.
When you're looking at the back of the box, everything seems peachy. It would be best to stop there, however, because it's a nightmare once you turn on the DS. You can't even get past the game's title screen before it starts to stink. You start by picking your profile, which normally isn't so bad, but the cursor is the same color as the first profile, making it hard to figure out just what features you're selecting. Hopefully you don't accidentally select the delete option, because the next screen simply asks, "Are you sure?" and doesn't let you know that you're about to delete your profile. We can speak from experience as to how easy it is to delete everything you've unlocked.
The gameplay modes are a lot like prison food. You have limited choices and no matter what you pick, it's going to be terrible. There's a quick-race mode, but unless you want to race one track over and over with the same car, you'll have to suffer through tournaments to unlock anything. If someone you intensely dislike happens to have a copy of the game and you can trick him or her into getting close enough for you to connect via Wi-Fi, you can torture the poor fool in multiplayer play. Once you pick your poison, the game inexplicably makes you select your profile again, even though exactly one screen has passed since you first did this. Perhaps the developer found that people were giving up on the game after the first options screen and wanted whoever took over to be able to log in.
It's all downhill once the race begins. For starters, the controls are poorly laid out and can't be altered. You'll go back and forth between the A button to accelerate and the Y button to boost. Hopefully you don't want to change the camera angle during a race. That's inconveniently mapped to the select button. After getting beaten down by the button mapping, your next torture session comes courtesy of the way the cars handle. They're pretty good at going in a straight line, but it's a crapshoot as to how they'll respond when you try to turn; sometimes they'll turn too much, other times not enough. You'll seemingly gain speed on some turns, but other times you'll come to a complete stop.
Even mastering the controls and the handling isn't enough to stop the pain. In the first race you'll find that your car is far slower than the others (there are a whopping three other cars on the track), and it's impossible to win the first race, no matter how well you drive. In fact, there's a pretty good chance you won't win your first dozen or so races. The CPU-controlled cars sometimes get stuck in corners or on objects, so you might pick up a cheap third-place finish here and there, which may or may not be enough to keep you from breaking into tears. You're able to spend your paltry fourth-place winnings on car upgrades to improve your acceleration, top speed, boost, and handling. However, car damage carries over from one race to the next, so unless you want your car to explode in the middle of a race and start the entire tournament over, you'll have to waste your money repairing your vehicle.
It might be hard to believe, but things get worse. If you fail to finish first overall by the end of the four races that compose each tournament level, you have to race the entire thing over again. That's not so bad, right? It is when you have to do it multiple times, because your car is outclassed by the other vehicles until it's fully upgraded. Should you persevere, you'll make it to the second tier of races, where once again, you won't be able to hang with the other cars, and you'll lose. Starting over from the second tier isn't such a bad deal, but you won't be that lucky--you have to start from the first tier again! You can probably guess what happens when you lose on the third tier.
Outside of giving you a decent sense of speed, the game's presentation is just as heinous as the gameplay. You view the race using the top screen, and the bottom screen shows a map of the course as well as the position of each car. This is great for finding out just how horribly you're being beaten, but not much else, because all three of the available views on the top screen are shamefully terrible. The default camera is so high up that you might as well be viewing the action with Google Maps. Even better, it's frequently obscured by junk on the course, leaving you clueless as to where you're headed. Amazingly, the second camera option makes the game even less playable. It's not only far away, but it's placed at some sort of ridiculous angle akin to a security camera. Rounding out the bunch is the behind-the-car view, which is fantastic for people who love not being able to see what's around a turn, thanks to the walls that line the inside and outside of the track.
Unless you count the fact that it feels as though the game actively dislikes you, RC Rally is completely devoid of any personality. Your driver is known as Player 1, and you'll be taking on well-known talent such as AI Driver 1, AI Driver 2, and...wait for it...AI Driver 3! The game's paltry six vehicles make use of hot licenses like Buggy, 4WD, and Roadster. Speaking of the cars, it's never explained why your RC cars, which you would think would be perhaps the size of a regular remote-controlled car, are instead the size of Micro Machines.
The races take place in exotic locations such as Garden Stage, Indoor Stage, Rooftop, and other places simply too amazing to spoil for anyone who hasn't yet played the game. The courses are boring and poorly designed. You can get stuck in and on objects and hit invisible walls on either sides of ramps, and when you make a wrong turn there's frequently no way to head back in the right direction, which means you're instantly down a lap. The drab colors make it difficult to tell which upcoming blurry texture is the road and which texture is a wall--a big problem when your car is so easily damaged.
Tone deaf and talentless composers worldwide will be pleased to know that thanks to games like Mini RC Rally, there's work to be had. The music is, simply put, some of the worst MIDI garbage you'll ever hear. The soundtrack is complemented nicely by the gnatlike whine of the cars and their hideous screeching tires.
Mini RC Rally is a perfect storm of crap. Very few games are able to be so absolutely intolerable in every single aspect of their existence. It's creatively bankrupt, the level progression is broken, the presentation is dreadful, the controls are busted, and nearly any camera angle you could dream up would be better than what's used here. Simply put: The game hates you and you'll hate it right back.