What Is Music Racer Ultimate?
Music Racer Ultimate is an updated version of Music Racer, a racing rhythm game that combines elements of traditional racing games with music rhythm games like Guitar Hero. You’ll drive around a variety of tracks in different vehicles trying to hit as many beats as possible in order to maximize your score and unlock more options. The biggest selling point of the updated version is that you can upload your own music to the game, giving it infinite possibilities.
WARNING: Music Racer Ultimate, like many video games, begins with a warning about it having the potential to induce seizures. I cannot stress enough how closely you should heed this warning for this particular game. Neither I nor my son have any health conditions that cause seizures, however, both of us independently noted to the other that we felt as if we were on the brink of one after completing some levels due to the amount of flashing, colorful lights, and the need to stare intently at the direct center of the screen. If you have ever had any previous problems with seizures, I would highly recommend avoiding this game entirely.
Music Racer Ultimate is rated PEGI 12 and ESRB Teen. This is entirely down to the lyrics of the songs you can access, so if you’re supervising play and only using your own curated music with younger players, the game would be suitable for all ages.
Music Racer Ultimate Trailer
Music Racer Ultimate is currently available on:
Expansions and In-Game Purchases
There are no expansions or in-game purchases in Music Racer Ultimate.
There are four game modes on Music Racer Ultimate: Standard, Hard, Zen, and Cinematic.
In Standard Mode, you’ll race along the three tracks trying to hit beats and avoid the pillars. Hitting a pillar dissolves your vehicle for a moment and jolts the music, but then you’ll continue on as before.
Hard Mode is almost identical to Standard, except hitting a pillar will immediately end the level entirely.
In Zen Mode, there are no pillars, only beats, making this a more relaxing option. You can literally play (and score reasonably well) without ever touching the controller.
Cinematic Mode is as relaxed as it comes. There are no pillars or beats, you’ll just get to listen to the music and control the camera angle if you want. However, you’ll also score no points in this mode, it exists purely for relaxing visuals, not gameplay.
There are three ways to select music to race to on Music Racer Ultimate: Local, Audius, and Link. None of the options allow you to preview the songs before starting a level with them, so you’ll be going in blind unless you know the song already.
Local is the tracks that come preinstalled with the game. There are 43 tracks from artists including Gremlyn, Isafold, Jegbee, Profane, Projekt F, and Tobu—nothing I’d ever heard of and, most likely, nothing you’ll have heard of either.
Audius is a music streaming service and you can either search for artists or check out what’s trending, however, don’t expect to find anything familiar. I searched for dozens of artists and came up blank with literally none of my searches returning results no matter how popular or obscure I went. A look through the trending list revealed hundreds of songs but nothing I’d ever heard of. The most familiar options were remixes of songs like Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” and “Milkshake” by Kelis, but most of the songs had titles like “WVRP #4428 – It’s LIT[Dexter88]” and “TIEMPO \u23f3,” so the likelihood of you finding something you know is minimal to non-existent.
Link is the really key option here as this is where you can add your own music, however, this too is somewhat problematic. There’s no option to upload via USB or connect to your streaming platform of choice and access your personal library. Instead, you’ll need to install software on your PC, Mac, or phone to create your own local server, then upload the songs to that server in a supported format (m3u, aiff, mp3, ogg, wav, or flac). Once they’re uploaded, you’ll need to enter the URL of the local server into the game and finally, you’ll have access to your songs and effectively unlimited gameplay options. That’s assuming it works. I went through multiple options provided by the developer before coming across one that worked which was using the Amerigo app on my iPhone to generate the server, then uploading song files to that server from my PC. Given that most of us today use streaming services and therefore no longer curate vast mp3 libraries, there’s a good chance you might not have copies of your favorite tracks ready to go, but that’s an easily solved problem with a bit of forward planning.
Songs you download from Audius or your own local server are only stored for the duration of the level—you can’t permanently save anything—so you’ll need to keep the server ready and re-download the songs every time you want to race. Yes, it’s a bit irritating but luckily it only takes a few seconds.
Music Racer Ultimate Gameplay and Verdict
The actual gameplay of Music Racer Ultimate is as simple as it comes—this might actually be the simplest game I’ve ever played, and yes, I’m including Pong in that assessment.
To play through a level you’ll literally only need two buttons: left and right, or you can use the joystick but I found that to be less precise. Once you launch into a level/song, you’ll find yourself piloting your vehicle of choice along a track with three lanes. White rectangles (beats) are positioned along the track and you’ll need to switch between the lanes to drive over as many as possible to get the best possible score. There’s no acceleration, braking, or steering, nor can you drive off the track or fail for missing too many beats. In fact, on all modes except Hard, you could set the level off, put the controller down for the duration, and still end up with a reasonable score, as you’ll at least pick up all the points from whichever lane you left your vehicle. The speed at which your vehicle moves along the track is also impacted by the “speed” of the song, so a loud, fast chorus will see your vehicle suddenly accelerate. The biggest challenge is that many of the tracks undulate making it virtually impossible to see what’s coming and forcing you to rely on luck more than skill. However, this isn’t a game about driving skills, it’s a game about rhythm, and the music is the game’s biggest selling point.
Collecting beats will earn you points that you can spend on unlocking vehicles. As there is no driving skill involved in this game, the different vehicles are purely for aesthetic purposes and behave identically on the track so you can choose entirely based on what looks cool, rather than comparing each vehicle’s acceleration, braking, and cornering ratings as in most racing games. There’s a good range of choices and lots of nostalgic options. You can choose from an array of retro cars including the Lorean, the Knight Rider, and the F1 Bolide plus more generic options like Road Warrior, Police, Turbo, or Muscle Car. Or go crazy with a light cycle, raven, or even a futuristic/sports car version of Santa’s sleigh.
You can also spend your points on unlocking more tracks to race along. My favorite ended up being Retro—a cool synthwave-style track that pulsates to the music and is also flatter than many others, making it easier to see what’s ahead. Fireworks is possibly the craziest of the lot, and after racing along that one, I felt as if I had a good idea of what driving on LSD might feel like!
It’s worth noting that although you can upload any music you want into Music Racer Ultimate, that doesn’t mean that every song or even musical genre is going to work well in the game. If your musical preference of choice is soft jazz, gentle ballads, or classical concertos, you’re probably not going to get the best racing experience here. Also, be aware that the levels last as long as the song so that 23-minute-long Pink Floyd album track? Probably not the best choice either unless you’re trying to get a hand cramp. Songs with lots of background noise such as live recordings also suffer because the beats generated by the game will be overly random. Remember that the pattern of beats along the racing tracks is being generated by an AI, not a human, so clear recordings of short songs with a strong rhythm are almost always going to give you the best racing experience. After considerable experimentation, my top three songs to race to (in order) ended up being:
- “Dragula” by Rob Zombie
- “Trouble’s Coming” by Royal Blood
- “The Video Game Champion” by GUNSHIP
There’s no way to “win” at Music Racer Ultimate unless you count simply unlocking every vehicle and track, and with no multiplayer option, you’ll be stuck racing alone so it’s not the most group-friendly racing game available either. However, I still had a lot of fun playing, testing out which songs worked well and which didn’t. For its surprisingly cheap price point (you’ll only fork out around $7, less than a single drink for you and a friend) you’ll definitely get your money’s worth out of this, even if it doesn’t end up having a hugely long shelf-life.
GeekMom received a copy of this game for review purposes.