Fast RMX (Switch)

It’s been fifteen years since the last mainline F-Zero game and I can only play the same old Wipeout games so many times. Fast RMX doesn’t quite fill the futuristic-racer void left behind by those classic franchises, but it’s a decent snack that’ll keep me going until the main course eventually arrives.

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If Fast RMX looks familiar then you’re likely one of the few thousand people who cared about the Wii U. My condolences. Fast RMX is a remaster (or “remix”) of Fast Racing Neo released for the Wii U back in 2015. The Switch edition includes all the tracks from Neo, plus the DLC tracks and about twelve completely new ones for a total of thirty-six. Game modes appear to be the same in both games. Accordingly to Digital Foundry, the performance is significantly improved for the Switch version, which runs at 1080p/60 fps in docked and 720p/60 fps in handheld mode although both modes utilize a variable resolution to some extent.

Fast RMX is racing stripped down to the basics. There are no weapons and the only power-ups of note are orbs which you collect for a temporary boost. Fast RMX is all about speed; so much so that the only way to take out your opponents is to boost into them. There’s no need to worry about aiming missiles or being taken out by blue shells; just go as fast as you can and you’ll get the appropriate reward.

Like the games that inspire it, Fast RMX‘s courses have you bombing up and down steep hills, negotiating corners while your vehicle is practically on its side, and zooming through the air as you try to land on a boost pad. Overall, it’s more F-Zero than Wipeout, especially with regards to handling which is more responsive than it is in the Wipeout games. A couple of the courses are also straight out of games like F-Zero GX.

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Fast RMX‘s main gimmick is the ability to switch your vehicle between orange and blue phases. You need to match your vehicle to the color of the pads to gain a boost. Choose the wrong color and you’ll slow down or miss a jump. The orange and blue color scheme brings about an obvious point of comparison in Ikaruga (and every movie poster ever made), however the phases in Fast RMX never become a challenging part of the experience. The speed boosts are usually clearly visible and it’s rare to make a mess of it. At its best, the phase switching becomes almost like a rhythm game as you switch between the two colors for successive boosts. However, for the most part, phase switching is more routine than exciting.

The fifteen vehicles on offer have three key stats: acceleration, top speed, and boost. These stats have a subtle impact on choices you make during races. For example, soaring through the air is slower than racing on the ground, so if your vehicle is focused on a high top speed, you might want to avoid hitting optional jumps. Conversely, if you have a high boost ability, then it’s probably worth hitting those jumps because they tend to have plenty of boost orbs to pick up mid-air. Some courses have optional routes which aren’t so much shortcuts as choices you must make to suit your vehicle and racing style. The decisions are subtle, but expect to get overtaken if you make the wrong call.

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Fast RMX has three-speed modes, although even the slowest setting is fast and represents a decent challenge. There’s no equivalent to Mario Kart’s 50cc mode here. The AI is aggressive and it’s rare to lead a race for an entire lap. You never feel comfortable. I think there’s a bit of rubber-banding, but if it is there, it’s subtle. There were races where I made a mistake on the first corner of the first lap and was never able to catch up to the leaders.

The thirty-six courses offer up loads of variety. There’s everything from jungles to deserts to futuristic cities, and effects like nighttime races, heavy rain, and sandstorms. Some courses are relatively flat, while others have huge jumps, tubes that you can drive around in 360 degrees, and fans that try to blow you off the track. Even with thirty-six courses, there’s little in the way of repetition until you get to the last few which were added specifically for the Switch version.

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Fast RMX‘s major misstep is its use of obstacles on the tracks. They only feature on about a third of the courses, but when they appear they can be frustrating. Obstacles pop up with little in the way of any warning, such as the machines that slam down on top of you or lasers from the sky. Other obstacles are a poor fit for the environment, like the signs on the Iceland level which pop out of nowhere on a track that is effectively one large tube. You can barely see what’s in front of you as you spin around that thing, so expect to crash a lot until you’ve memorized the course.

There are a few collision detection issues. Dislodged rocks clip in and out of view as they head towards you, meaning you’ll either go right through them or be hit by something you can’t see. There are also some harsh crashes when hitting the edge of the track after jumps. The AI takes advantage of absolutely any mistake so these minor niggles can easily make the difference between a first-place finish and a fifth-place finish.

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The additional difficulty settings don’t change much about the races, so once you’ve completed all twelve of the novice tournaments, you might want to try your hand at hero mode. In this mode, your boost and shield are on the same gage, meaning that using the boost drains the shield. The hero mode tracks are mirrored versions of the main courses, bringing the total to a generous seventy-two.

Local multiplayer is excellent, with the frame rate sticking at 60 fps even on four-player splitscreen. Unfortunately, I don’t have much to say about online multiplayer other than that it seems to be dead. I tried to get races at various times of the day without any luck. Strangely, you’re required to pick a course to race on before being matched up with opponents, so not only are you dealing with a limited number of potential players, you also have to hope they want to play the exact same course as you.

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Fast RMX isn’t quite the new Wipeout or F-Zero game that I so desperately want, however it is a damn good futuristic racing game and a bargain at $20. Its budget status shows up in a few places, such as the subdued music, barebones online, or lack of a notable difference between the difficulty modes. However, Fast RMX is exhilarating at top speed and rewards track mastery while minimizing annoying RNG elements. The three race tournaments make it perfect for short play sessions and it will help tide me over until a new Wipeout of F-Zero.

4/5

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