Slot racing is a piece of Americana, a hobby that calls forth memories of elaborate tracks sprawled across wood-paneled basement rec rooms. The shiny cars, the crackling sparks of electricity under them, and those spectacular moments of spinning end over end off the track are hard to recreate in a computer game, but SlotZ Racer 2 HD pulls it off.
The game is a painstaking simulation of a slot car racing set, full of carefully modeled cars, tracks, and scenery pieces. The tracks sit on the floor of an old-fashioned living room, and the cars zip and tumble around on them with realistic flair. If you’re looking for nostalgia, this game has plenty.
The controls are simple– which is good, since there’s no tutorial. Start up a race, wait for the five lights to go out, and put your finger on the screen to accelerate. There’s no steering, shifting, or even braking to worry about.
The simplicity is what makes slot car racing entertaining. All you have to do is go as fast as you can without flying off the track, but taking the curves just fast enough is an art. You can lose a race with just one accident, and the throttle is so responsive that the accident is sure to be your own fault.
There are several different ways to race, including time trials and a set of championships that puts three or more different tracks together in sequence. There’s even a head-to-head multiplayer mode in which up to four players can race using a split screen or an overhead view of the track.
All the races run smoothly, and you can choose to follow the action from a variety of camera angles. You can even turn on a night mode with glow-in-the-dark guard rails, just like those Tyco Nite-Glow sets from the 1970s.
However, the real depth lies in the robust track editor. There are dozens of pieces of track and scenery, along with options for bridges and different elevations of the track. You can build almost anything you like, though it may take a little while to figure out exactly what you want and where to find it in all the menus. You can share your tracks and download tracks created by other players, so you’re unlikely to run out of new venues to race in.
Strange Flavour Limited developed the first SlotZ Racer back in 2009, and SlotZ Racer 2 doesn’t add a lot to the original. There are more tracks, more race modes, and the track editor’s new ability to share tracks with the world. But these are refinements, not innovations. So how does the SlotZ Racer franchise stand up to the rest of the racing genre in 2013?
In general, it has nothing to be ashamed of. SlotZ Racer 2 is fast, it’s fun, and if you like building tracks then it’s likely to keep you entertained for months. But it also doesn’t have as much visceral appeal as more traditional racers like Need for Speed: Most Wanted.
In the end, this is a lovingly-produced game for a specialized audience of fans. If you like the little cars and the creative opportunities of the track editor, then SlotZ Racer 2 HD may be just the game for you. If you’re not into slot racing, though, this game may be little more than a brief trip down memory lane.