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Art of Rally may feature some micro machines, but it’s not just a novelty racer.

Have you ever tried to make a 3D driving game in an engine like Unity or Unreal? No, of course, you haven’t. You’re probably a normal person with sensible hobbies. You probably went outside and spoke to people. (In the before times. Nobody goes outside anymore.)

Me? I’m an odd sort. I like to know how things work. So in my neverending quest to produce semi-functional video game demos that never amount to anything, I’ve tried to make a few driving games. It’s surprisingly difficult.

Not that it’s hard to slap some skinny cylinders on a cube (yay, primitives!) and make it roll. Modern game engines come equipped with everything you’ll need to make a functional vehicle. If you put together all the various mechanical bits you’ll get something that works. It can be tweaked and tuned and customised, but is perhaps a bit too twitchy and complex for video game purposes, especially if you’re looking for an accessible, arcade feel.

To get something that plays well? That’s the real challenge. (And for the record, I usually settle on something like this. If it looks dumb but it works, it’s not dumb.)

art of rally night

Art of Rally, an arcade rally game by Funselektor Labs, currently has a free demo available. When I fired it up and started playing with a keyboard, I felt instantly reminded of my own twitchy forays into driving games. But we have all long since learned that the keyboard is not the ideal way to simulate analogue inputs like an accelerator pedal or steering wheel.

Steering was a difficult tap dance across the keys; acceleration was all or nothing; and between the two, uncontrolled slides, spins and crashes were frequent. Then I dug out an Xbox One controller and, suddenly, Art of Rally began to sing.

Just the ability to gradually depress the accelerator – and let’s not understate just how good those analogue triggers are on an Xbox One controller – unlocks a new universe of control. Feathering the accelerator through a shallow bend, near-impossible on the binary clack of a keyboard, is second nature now. Crashing is through exuberance and ambition, not through lack of control. Accidents are fun, not frustrating. (And accidents in Art of Rally are really good fun.)

Whipping through the forests of Finland in Art of Rally, with the squirmy retro rally car wrestled under control, you can appreciate how pretty a picture Funselektor has painted. It’s minimalist and understated, with block colours frothy foliage and bouncy, lo-fi obstacles. This is rallying with a smear of vaseline on the lens and gravel in its heart, which suits its adorable replicas of (what look very much like) a Lancia Delta and Ford Escort RS1800.

art of rally jump

Don’t expect Art of Rally to be a hyper-realistic racer, then. The pared-back visuals and instinctive action tell you where Funselektor’s priorities lie. This pocket rocket will never compete with Codemasters’ efforts on realism and technicality, then, but that’s not the aim here.

But for an accessible, arcade-friendly rally game? We’re expecting Art of Rally to have plenty of depth to back it up. You’d expect nothing less from the creator of (the surprisingly zen) Absolute Drift.

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