by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
I was never a big racing guy until about a year ago. I’m not sure what changed, but ever since, I’ve enjoyed most of them from cart racers to sims and everything in between. That being the case, I was hoping that I’d enjoy 251 Games’ 1950s style retro racing game Motorama more than I did. Unfortunately this title is one that never rises above “okay,” and frequently slips far lower. The long and short of it is that Motorama feels like a game in early beta. It’s a shame, because I think the game could be fine if the game was still in development, but it’s not, and that’s not okay.
Upon initially starting Motorama one of its many (and in my opinion most inexcusable) errors becomes apparent- the game’s got pretty terrible grammar and punctuation. There are egregious run-on sentences, and they apparently missed the lesson in 3rd grade where we all learned that words like “don’t” or “won’t” need to have apostrophes. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but it’s a big deal to me. When you’re putting out a professional product that people are paying for, you need to take the time to proofread your text. Additionally, this is telling of the polish (or lack thereof) in many other areas of the game as well. Another issue that starts in the menus (though they continue into races as well) is that the game only shows controller button prompts whether you’re using a controller or keyboard. It’s incredibly frustrating. Worse is that there’s no “Button Layout” section in the options, so you’re left blindly guessing what the keys are. To be honest I still don’t know what the B button is. I have no idea. The obvious alternative would be to at least navigate the menus with the mouse, but for some reason clicking anything on the screen is not allowed. Options are also lacking, with not much more than preset graphics levels and volume options. Lastly, at least before we get into issues with actual gameplay, I need to mention how annoying the music is. It’s one song that plays over, and over , and over. Or, if it’s not the same song, it sounds remarkably close. Through menus, races, everything. It never stops, and it’s not that great even before if grinds through your ear with pure perseverance.
The issues with polish, usability, and function continue into the races themselves as well. The racing in its most basic form is actually fairly solid from a mechanical standpoint. Unfortunately the mechanics are put to waste since actually racing is ruined by a number of problems with the AI racers (there is no multiplayer). First, they cheat. On many of the courses there is civilian traffic that you need to avoid at penalty of a nasty time-consuming collision. That’s great, except for the fact that your opponents pass through traffic like ghosts. In what way is that fair? In no ways. It’s ludicrous. The other AI issue is that sometimes the drivers appear to suffer sudden and long-lasting seizures. Too frequently opposing drivers will just either turn into a wall and spin out, or start swerving all over the track. I don’t know why. Probably because they know they can’t hit the pedestrians anyway.
It’s Not All Bad
That being said, it’s not all bad. The cars are cool. While there’s certainly not a complete void of options, there aren’t nearly as many classic 50s American racers as sci fi or modern ones. The cars are cool and do a nice job of, at least visually, representing some of the machines that made American manufacturers famous (though it’s worth noting that they change the names of the manufacturer names for what I assume were budget reasons). There's also some customization which is fun to play around with, although it’s nothing deep or elaborate enough to warrant a purchase if you just want a game that lets you tinker with 50s icons. The actual mechanics of racing your car are pretty good too. The cars control well and the courses are interesting enough, if not visually bland.
I didn’t like ripping into this game because, like I said above, it seems like if it were a beta release it could be the building blocks of something alright. It isn’t a beta though. It’s a full retail release, and I don’t think that it’s too much to ask for a game people are paying money for to function properly with a moderate level of polish. While the core driving experience is fine, it’s almost completely ruined by confusing button prompts, terrible AI decisions and collision glitches, and a number of other polish and usability issues mentioned above. Maybe the developers will see this and patch some things up, but at this point it’s too late for them to do that and have it be okay. For now, Motorama needs to stay in the garage like the rusty jalopies it so closely resembles.
Cool collection of classic cars, nice feel during races
Serious grammar issues, button prompts and menu navigation woes, grinding music, bad AI intelligence and collision glitches.