Blasting onto the racing scene is the bright, Australian-produced party game, Obliteracers. This unique spin on the competitive kart racer genre has you battling against three other racers in a war to see who can destroy each other the most amount of times. Coming first in the race is not the main objective here as you guide your robotic/monster hybrid creature around a variety of visually exciting tracks.
Created by Melbourne-based developers Space Dust Studios, Obliteracers takes you back to the heyday of kart racing games with a distinct Diddy Kong Racing or Mario Kart 64 feel. Of course, with those traditional racers the game objective was to reach pole position while avoiding attacks from your friends as they shot random weapon pickups at you. As couch co-op games went, they were a lot of fun and made for some great competitive cheekiness.
Obliteracers takes the core concept of weapon pickups from those games and plants that idea firmly as the key element of the game. Sure, you can try and be first if you want, but that’s beside the point. The point is to deal as much damage as possible to your opponents, blasting them into obliteration. It’s like someone took the core concept of competitive FPS multiplayer games, with their ‘King of the Hill’ and ‘Deathmatch’ modes, and slapped those playstyles on to a racer.
Obliteracers features multiple game modes. There’s the elimination race, where the key is to be the last car driving, or there’s free-for-all, where the player who obliterates the most cars wins. Each race has four cars in it (although, on PC you can have up to sixteen players), making the game ideal for couch based competitions. Unlike other competitive racers, which accommodate multiple players by splitting the screen into individual windows, all four racers are on the one screen. If you happen to fall too far behind and slip off the screen, then depending on the mode you’re playing, you’ll reset quickly on the track with a penalty for your mishap.
As speed is not the key to the game, each car moves at a similar pace. This keeps everyone in a group and ensures parity amongst players, with no one driver being able to stay out of reach from attacks. After all, the key is attacking opponents, and it’s hard to attack when your opponent is speeding off the screen. The focus on attacking, rather than racing, makes the cars feel a little sluggish. Once you get your head around the fact that you’re not relying on speed to win, but rather your arsenal of weapons, it makes the game more enjoyable.
Weapon variety includes the standard weapons you would expect to find in a kart game arsenal – machine guns, rockets, oil slicks – with the odd unique weapon thrown into the mix; such as a force field that can blast enemies off the track. It doesn’t always pay to be in first place as some weapons can only shoot forward, so if you intend on blasting away your opponents then it’s best to try and drive behind them so they can’t defend themselves. However, if you’re wise with the placement of your oil slick, you can cause a driver to spin out and burst into flames. This varied array of weapons encourages tactical play. The player who can master the forward and rear attacking weapons will often end up on top.
Adding to the challenge of winning rounds is the various obstacles that litter the tracks. On one sand covered track, washed-up mines prove to be nefarious obstacles the players must strive to avoid – or, for the shifty player, bump opponents into. If there is one criticism that can be made of Obliteracers it is that the bulky vehicles make the turning circle of the cars quite large, which makes taking corners difficult. This, combined with the fact that obstacles, such as water, may be the boundary at the bend of a track means that you may often find yourself in the drink. However, if the turning circle of the karts was a little tighter, this could have been avoided. If you do manage to feel you’re heading in the wrong direction, there is a nifty ‘hop’ button which can help realign you to the correct path. (Another cool feature of Obliteracers is that if you’re without a weapon but want to attack an opponent, you can even ‘hop’ on top of them to squash them – ensuring that you always have a line of attack.)
Visually, Obliteracers is a treat. Bright colours and creative track designs help make each course feel unique and exciting to battle through. Unfortunately, the sound design isn’t as great, with the vehicles often sounding a little hollow, or almost as if the volume were turned down. This is not a huge bother as the core mechanics are exciting enough to elevate the game above a flaw like this.
Obliteracers comes with online play, single play and couch co-op mode. At the time of review, I struggled to find an online match to test out whether the exciting couch battles would translate to an online environment. Single play is made up of a career mode which is genuinely exciting, and the bots that you play against put up a fair fight.
As a locally produced game, Obliteracers is a prime example of the sort of talent that should be supported by the Australian government. With that in mind, it’s great to see Film Victoria get behind a talent like Space Dust Studios and assist with the production of a game like Obliteracers. It’s a fun, exciting game that takes the well-worn genre of kart racing and gives it a unique, fun spin. While the online longevity is not yet known, it should definitely become a staple for any competitive party game library thanks to its easy pick-up and play style.