Remote/radio control cars can be great fun, especially when you use them to do stunts or race on makeshift tracks. That’s clearly the thinking behind Re-Volt, a popular 1999 console and PC kart racer that’s just made its way to Android.
Re-Volt Classic stays true to the original, with all cars, tracks, and the stunt area intact, but the most compelling feature — multiplayer — is currently missing. This is emblematic of bigger problems with the touch-screen remake, which not only handles less elegantly without physical buttons but also suffers from a number of frustrating niggles.
Re-Volt Classic has five modes: Championship, Single Race, Time Trial, Practice, and Stunt Arena. All of this is open to you right away, but you’ll need to either spend extra money on in-app purchases or grind through some arbitrary goals to unlock all the tracks and cars.
Shut up and drive.
You’re initially restricted to just four tracks — the Bronze Cup set — and a few crappy cars. But there are 14 tracks across four sets — or Cups — that you can unlock through the Championship mode. You need to finish in the top three for each race and overall in order to advance to the next Cup, and you get a mere three retries across a Championship campaign.
This was standard fare in the 90s, but it feels downright oppressive today. Doubly so given that you can’t hop in and out of a Championship — there’s no autosave if you need to answer a call or switch to another app to do something, which gets frustrating when each campaign takes upwards of 15-20 minutes to plow through (not a lot of time ordinarily, but a big deal under many typical mobile phone use cases).
You may find the Single Race and Time Trial modes more palatable, and equally rewarding, but if you want variety you’ll have to tackle the Championships at some point — otherwise you’ll be stuck with just the four opening tracks and their mirror, reverse, and reverse mirror versions (each of which is unlocked through time trials).
The race is long, but in the end it’s only with yourself.
If the game seems too easy or hard for you, you can change the difficulty level. Go into the Options, then choose Game Settings, and tap on Mode. You can lower the difficulty to Easy or increase it to Hard, Arcade, or Simulation. Simulation is really tough.
Out of Control
Re-Volt Classic’s controls provide a similar blend of choice and limitation. The default scheme handles acceleration for you, but bizarrely allows no means of braking or reversing — and you will need to use these. You steer with virtual buttons on the left and right edges of the screen, but these are too small for comfort.
The standard controls are good, until something goes wrong and you can’t quickly hit reverse.
Likewise with both alternative control schemes. The virtual joysticks seem like a great idea, borrowed from the realm of console racers employing dual joysticks — one to steer and one to accelerate/brake. But I had an awful time getting used to them, mostly because my thumbs constantly ended up outside their touch response zone.
The virtual joysticks will help you get into the thick of the action, then right back out of it.
I favor the virtual joypad (shown in most of my screenshots), which puts accelerate and brake buttons on the bottom right and steering controls on the bottom left. This, too, suffers from the buttons being too small and oftentimes unresponsive, but at least it’s consistent and complete.
You’ll need to experiment to find what works best for you, and you may find different cars call for different controls. There’s huge variety in the handling of vehicles, with every combination of gas-powered, electric, fast, slow, heavy, and light, coupled with rookie, amateur, advanced, semi-pro, and pro classes.
There are 42 cars in all, so you could get a lot of extra mileage out of the game purely from mastering each vehicle — indeed, this is one of Re-Volt’s strongest points.
All modes put your current item in the middle of the left edge of the screen. You tap on this to use it. In typical kart racer fashion, not all items are made equal, and you may find yourself occasionally hanging onto something special for a lap or two — waiting for the right moment to unleash your fury.
Time trials play out in an arcade style. You sprint around the track as fast as you can, racing only against the clock, and try to slip in below the countdown timer. Do this and you get a star. Get a star for every track in a set and you unlock some stuff.
Practice mode doubles as a hunt for stars and a free drive, as does the Stunt Arena, while Single Race is a focused version of the Championship — pick one track to race on, through one to eight laps (you can alter the default of three), and if you win you earn a star. A progress table on the main menu lists your successes, making it easy to see what you’ve got left to complete.
You rather confusingly need to win in Single Race mode to register the achievement for winning on a track. Re-Volt Classic tries very hard to get you spending quality time with all of its elements. But it ultimately feels shallow. You might put in the effort in order to unlock everything, but you’ll soon fall back on your favorite mode — to the exclusion of all else.
Just Shy of a Podium Finish
That gets old soon, too. With no multiplayer features, Re-Volt Classic is missing the killer element of its source material. Maybe it’s on the way — hopefully alongside new tracks and an expanded Stunt Arena. The developers have announced upcoming solutions to my major control complaints, on the Play Store page, but there’s no saying when they’ll drop.
For now, though, you’re only likely to get longevity out of Re-Volt Classic if you’re a completionist or a time trial addict — always striving to knock another hundredth off a second of your best lap.
It’s a frustrating kart racer, but between cool track design, loads of cars, and explosive driving, it’s also a worthy investment for arcade and kart racing fans.