I love racing games. Whenever we get a code for a racing game, I’m always the first to volunteer (and often volunteered by others). When I heard that we had received a code for a new racer, I quickly picked it up and eagerly went to download it. The title in question is Wheelspin Frenzy a retro-inspired racing game from Mental Moose Games.
Wheelspin Frenzy is a top-down racer, a bit like the excellent Mantis Burn Racing. The camera position is where this similarity ends though. The art-style is a lot more stylised with a sort of cel-shaded appearance. The actual art design comes across really nicely. The cars are distinctive, and all have a sense of fun to their appearance. The same can be said of the various items and scenery scattered around the track. Unfortunately, this is the only positive thing that can be said about the visuals. The biggest issue is the fuzzy nature of the graphics. I had to check that this wasn’t just a mobile game that had been given a quick port to Xbox. Turns out that’s not the case though. At the time of writing this, Xbox One is the only platform this game is available on. I wondered whether it was because I was playing on a 4K TV with my Xbox One X, but I also tried it on my One S on a smaller TV and had the same issues. As well as the fuzzy visuals the framerate is not as stable as it should be. I experienced several frame drops during my run through the game.
The visual flaws could be forgivable if the gameplay was compelling. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. The handling model is passable but doesn’t offer much of interest. The AI of your opponents is very poor. I decided to try an event racing as coaches, and my opponents kept throwing themselves over the side of a cliff. I’ve also had races where two of my rivals just crashed into a wall and kept each other in the same spot long enough for me to lap them once or twice. There is a boost meter, but it’s never really explained how to fill it. I assumed at first that it was from powersliding (this is a game called Wheelspin Frenzy after all), but it appears to be from crashing into objects around the track.
One of the most important parts of any racing game are the tracks that you race on. The circuits offered here are passable but nothing special. The 20 tracks featured here aren’t particularly long or complex which is just as well as you will often have to learn them as the camera doesn’t always give you enough time to react to corners appropriately. The four different locations for the tracks have a nice level of variety, though, for my taste, there isn’t a big enough difference in grip levels between some of the track surfaces.
The audio in the game is also somewhat lacking. Sound effects like engine noise, collisions, and track noise are incredibly lacklustre. What music there is, is perfectly passable (in a retro 16-bit style) but there just isn’t enough of it. Songs are played over and over again. I understand it costs money to put music in your game, but if you want a gamer to spend 3-5 hours playing your game, then you should have at least 30-40 minutes of music.
I go into every game I play with the hope that it’s going to be great and that’s only increased when it’s a racing game. Alas, Wheelspin Frenzy fell far short of even my basic expectations for a cheap and cheerful little indie game. While I would never expect this to be the next Forza, games like Mantis Burn Racing have shown how an indie developer can make a superb top-down racer. The visuals are poor, the audio is sub-standard, and it’s light on content. I know this is a very cheap title but even at that price-point it just isn’t worth it.