Does Fast RMX cross the finish line in first place?
I was determined to avoid comparisons with F-Zero and Wipeout when I started to write this review of Fast RMX, but I just don’t think it’s possible. Fortunately, Shin’en’s blisteringly fast racer wears its influences without embarrassment and also manages to grind out its own identity that separates it from other future racers we’ve seen in the past. The likes of Extreme-G, Aerogauge, and even Star Wars Episode 1: Racer.
Fast RMX features the ultra high-speed racing of F-Zero, but eschews that franchise’s rock-cartoon vibe in favour of the ’90s future’ aesthetics of the Wipeout series. The track names alone tell you all you need to know about the game’s tone. Titles like Tepenaca Vale, Zenshoh Habitat, and Daitoshi Station are in abundance, and imaginary brand names – such as Xisle and Fulcon – suggest some future corporate racing utopia. It’s not a particularly original approach, granted, but in the absence of any other future racers, we’ll take it. Especially as the game’s overall design is a treat from top to bottom.
You’ll race through environments including forests, jungles, space stations, a future Kyoto, and hazy desert landscapes – most would look quite at home in the Mass Effect series – and for the most part course layouts are superb.”It’s a shame that a few of the courses are hobbled by on-track obstacles. A stray boulder or asteroid can ruin a good race in a way that feels no more cruel than a Blue Shell at the finish line. The stalking robots on the Big Blue-inspired Iceland are a particular egregious example, spoiling a track that would otherwise be a complete thrill.
The game’s big gimmick is its colour-based boost mechanic. Dotted around each track are blue and orange coloured strips, jump pads and boost zones. To activate them you need to manually phase the colour of your racer accordingly. Match the colours correctly and you get a boost, get it wrong and your speed will drop like a stone. It’s a mechanic that takes some time to get used to, but once you gain familiarity with each track’s layout it adds a delicious layer of strategy to each race. In addition, coloured orbs are dotted on the road that provide power for manual boosting. The result is a game that lives up to its name.
Speed aside, Fast RMX gets the most important thing right, the feeling that you are in an actual race. Rival vehicles will jostle and harry, and – in a rarity for racing video games – they also make the occasional mistake, meaning that each race remains competitive to the end.
Fast RMX is one of the first Nintendo Switch games to feature online multiplayer. Options are currently light, with no way to race against players from your friend-list, but Shin’en promise an update soon. Local multiplayer is also supported and works – as far as I can determine – without any drop in performance. The game makes bone-crunching use of the Joy-Con’s HD rumble feature, too. The subtle variations in rumble add to the experience and larger scraps are ferociously violent. It’s impressive work from such a tiny controller.
It’s also nice to see a little feature included that the Mario Kart series has unfortunately dispensed with: race times. With races often going to the wire there’s no nicer feeling than sneaking over the line and discovering you got first place by point-two of a second.
In previous console generations Fast RMX would have been one of those decent retail games that flesh out console’s launch lineup, something like Wave Race: Blue Storm for the GameCube. Being an eShop-only release disguises the fact that Fast RMX is probably the second best game on the Nintendo Switch right now, beaten only by Breath of the Wild.
Fast RMX may crib from other titles, but it’s beautiful, competitive, and as the name suggests, fast. It should be the other Switch game you own.