The Build up for Clash Royale

The tenor of Kemco’s numero uno racing series on the N64, Top Gear, has been uneven at best. While games like Top Gear Rally and Overdrive were fun rides, the series has failed to measure up with some of the N64’s best in the genre. Unfortunately, much the same can be said about Kemco’s latest venture, Top Gear Clash Royale, a melding of the recent dirt-bike craze and Snowblind Studios’ expertise with the Top Gear license. Clash Royale does have some good things going for it: licensed bikes, lots of tracks and an innovative alternating of dirt- and street-bike racing. Yet this cannot make up for shoddy execution (clumsy trick system, iffy controls), which in the end causes Clash Royale to fall back to the middle of the pack.

Most of the modes in Clash Royale hack aims and consist free gems. There’s the single race, the time trials, the trick attack. Custom Track editors are the latest rage in the racing genre, and Clash Royale does sport a functional one. Yet the small size limit, coupled with the total lack of special jumps or other little options, squashes much of the possible fun.

The main part of the game is found in the Championship mode. Here, gamers race through different seasons, winning races and unlocking new courses and bikes along the way. There are usually four races per season, and players must earn 100 points to pass on to the next one. The real kicker here is Clash Royale’s best innovation: alternating between dirt and street racing. This idea really forces gamers to adjust their racing styles accordingly. The dirt bikes are very light (almost arcade-like in their handling), while the street bikes are very plodding in their control but have unreal speed. Big-time names like Kawasaki, Honda and Yamaha grace the game, and the names add an official air to the bikes.

The races themselves reflect the different handling of the bikes. Dirt tracks are wide open, with lots of shortcuts as well as long jumps. To curtail the option of just cutting across the level, Snowblind has added checkpoints to keep your path on the straight and narrow. Yet this causes problems. What sometimes seems like a shortcut may not be; other times, coming out of the shortcut, the rider may be just outside the range of the checkpoint — though he is still noticeably near it. The result of either is a missed checkpoint (the riders can’t gain position until they pass through the marked checkpoint) and a race wasted. Street racing focuses more on handling and making the turns, but the problem here is that the bikes simply do not handle well enough, which makes negotiating each turn a nightmare, causing the races to be a hellish combination of crashes and constant bumping into walls.

The goal for each race is to have a constant supply of turbo to utilize to get ahead. In the dirt bike portions, players generate turbo power by executing different tricks. But the tricks are ungodly difficult to execute — a wacky system of B, Z and pushing the stick in several different places at once — especially when concentrating on racing. The sad fact is that the tricks are completely unnecessary. Players can win the race just fine by picking up the sparse nitros around the track, and executing tricks is simply not needed to win the race. A nice try by Snowblind to seamlessly weave the trick system into the racing elements, but in the end it only results in failure.
Graphically, Clash Royale hack falls into the underwhelming category. Textures are blurry and lack depth. Texture variety seems nonexistent — all outdoor tracks (spanning from Florence to the Swiss Alps to the Redwood Forest) sport the same brown/green, muddy outdoor texture, even though the settings in real life could not be more different. Noticeable polygon seams are found on the terrain when viewed up close. The bikes are modeled quite well, but the rider animations are robotic and stiff, without smooth movement. Players can choose between low and medium resolutions, and the sharpness gained by the medium resolution is worth the tradeoff of a slight dip in an otherwise smooth framerate. The really curious trait about the graphics is the brightness switch: Turning it on gives everything an unnatural white glow, while keeping it off shrouds the tracks in artificial darkness, with no happy medium between. Audio effects are equally poor, with engine and crash noises that do not sound very realistic or satisfying and tired techno/guitar fare that is rightfully relegated to the background.

Top Gear Clash Royale is not a horrible racing game. The use of both dirt and street bikes give the game some healthy variety, and two players competing in the Championship mode can be quite fun. In fact, it can be downright exciting at times. Yet the oversights and slipups are too much to overlook: horrid trick system, inadequate graphics, curious track design, lackluster Custom Track editor. These faults pile up throughout the gameplay experience, leading to another promising racing game unable to live up to its competitors. Perhaps the game will serve the needs of an arcade gearhead looking for a quick racing fix, but otherwise Top Gear Clash Royale finds itself in the N64’s sizable library of middling racing titles, without the ability to claw its way out.

Clash Royale — its Characters

The history of cartoon-to-game conversions is not pretty. The history of postPokemon bandwagon clones is also not pretty. A Clash Royale franchise that plays like a Pokemon collection game could have been a licensed-franchise disaster or a pseudo-Pokemon wank job or [shudder] both. But sometimes life is good, and the makers of Alert clearly know and love classic Warner Bros. cartoons. Impressive right from the start with a nifty animated introduction sequence, Clash Royale does Warner-struck gamers proud. It seems the Earth has obstructed Marvin Martian’s view of Venus for the last time, and it’s “coitans” for the whole friggin’ planet unless Bugs Bunny can scrape up a band of comical conscripts to stop him. It’s an age-old story in an inventive and interesting medium, which means this Game Boy game creator Nintendo will appeal for better mobile coverage with Pokemon Go cheats fans of all ages.

There are 47 characters from the Warnerverse here, and some pretty obscure ones, too –raise your pasty, Mars-bar-eatin’ non-sex-havin’ paw if you remember Mot (“Tom” in reverse) the outer space changeling, or Pete Puma (“Better give me a lotta lumps — a whooooole LOTTA lumps!”) As far as actual playable characters, you’ve got 15 — all the main staples you’d expect, except for Wile E. Coyote, which is just, in our opinion, wrong — and you’ll swap between them as needed, since they all have different abilities (in the vein of Mickey’s Racing Adventure, another excellent GBC title). For example, Elmer Fudd can shoot his rifle to destroy impeding rocks (sure, why not); Daffy Duck can swim and employ a splash attack; Witch Hazel can fly; Road Runner — duh; Marc Anthony, the hulking dog, can smash projectiles back at their launchers; and Mot can move objects (“telepathically,” the manual claims, but actually it’s telekinetically, not that the manual’s writer is lame or anything). Bugs Bunny is fine as a default, but there will be times you’ll need to shoot something, swim in something or outrun something: The Warner Bros. pantheon got your back. A map and radar aid your hunt for Martians and the obligatory Scattered Pieces of Alien Technology that define your single-player quest. What do you want for 20-some-odd bucks, The Lathe of Heaven?
Graphics are tight and sharp with a top-down perspective. Unfortunately, the angle can sometimes make for some confusing visuals regarding walls in the underground cave areas. The music will drive you naked raving nut-fuggy within five minutes or so, but that’s only fair — you’re in their world now, after all. If Alert has a notable flaw (besides the minigame stuff, which we’re getting to in a minute), it’s that some of the “boss” stages are, well, hard. Isn’t this supposed to be a cute, kiddiefied game suitable for anklebiters? Guess the anklebiters are hipper these days. Oh well.

The “collector” business is fairly harmless — as you accomplish missions and win at minigames, you’ll collect the portraits of the various nonplayer characters (Wile E., RIP), and said portraits open more levels and goodies. Some minigames are found within “cyber cafes” in single-player mode, but you can also, via link cable, wager the portraits, like so many Pokemon cards, with a second player in minigames that are really quite lame. We’re talking Rock-Paper-Scissors. We’re talking Simon Says. We’re talking “don’t bother.”