By – Steven Smith

Space Dust Racers Review 1

The racing genre has been around since almost the very beginning of gaming. With a second controller you had the ability to race competitively with a friend. Then came game consoles that could support 4 (or more) players and the Party Racing genre was born. Soon, sitting on the couch with a group of friends, racing around a track while shooting each other with turtle shells became a normal Saturday activity. Now with the connectivity of the internet it is possible to race with an even larger group of friends. About the only thing missing from this genre was the PC.

With a few exceptions, the term “PC racing game” means an ultra-realistic racing simulator with 100% real world physics in how the cars drive and react. Who said that the joys of wacky racers with weapon pickups has to be a console only experience? Certainly not the developers at Space Dust Studios. Their upcoming party racing title Space Dust Racers has just about everything you expect to find in the genre, from the bright, colorful tracks to the unique variety of racers, vehicles and weapons. There are even some new twists and features that add to the fun.

Anyone familiar with the genre knows the basic gameplay, you drive around around a track with up to 15 other racers. Each of the vehicles has it’s own style that is unique to the race of alien driver. Along the way you will find a variety of weapons to pick up and use against your competition. If you have no weapons there is always the option to simply ram an opponent off the road. You control your driver from a fairly wide view, 3rd person perspective which follows the pack of racers around the track. This differs from other games in the genre as it follows the lead racers instead of the player. No matter how many human players there are, you will never see a split screen in Space Dust Racers. If a racer, human controlled or otherwise, lags too far behind, they fall off the screen and are eliminated from the race. The object of the game is not to finish the race in first place, in fact there isn’t even a finish line, but rather to be the only remaining player in the race.

Space Dust Racers Review 1

The change in focus from being in first place to simply eliminating the other racers is an interesting departure from other party racing games. Space Dust Racers requires a completely different strategy than just cutting corners to get out in front, I actually found it more beneficial to not be in first place. The forward facing weapons, such as machine guns or the Shark Missile are much more devastating than those that fire rearwards like land mines or slippery Space Lube. The players out in front is are easy targets for the rest, however the players in the rear risk getting left behind. Being right in the middle with a pack of other racers is probably the most dangerous of all due to some absolutely brutal crowd control weapons. The Shockwave is a single use weapon that emits a pulse in all directions, sending the other racers flying.

Some may recover and keep racing while others will land facing the wrong way and be unable to keep from falling off the screen. With a bit of timing you can use the Shockwave to push your competition right off the road. Then there is my personal favorite, The BBQ. This weapon creates a lethal gulf of flames to the immediate left and right of your vehicle. Any racers caught in this inferno are quickly eliminated.

When the track has been cleared of all but the final racer, that player is awarded points and the race begins again. All cars are brought back and placed in their pole positions. Everyone continues driving, destroying each other and racking up points until the maximum point total has been reached. The player with the most points is declared the winner and the game moves on to the next track. It is my understanding that selecting a new track also gives you the option to select gameplay modifiers, in the demo version I played modifiers are pre-assigned.

Space Dust Racers Review 1

These modifiers are another feature that make Spacedust Racers stand out. Selecting different modifiers can drastically change the balance and strategies of the gameplay. You can handicap players with a modifier that adjusts everyone’s health in relation to their point spreads. Players with the most points are easiest to destroy while those in last place can withstand twice as much damage, maybe even give the last place racer an edge with a modifier that gives them a weapon at the start of each new heat.

Other modifiers include; a force field that will protect you from attacks but prevent you from using your gas or brake while active or the ability to sacrifice your current weapon to gain back some health, this could be even more useful if also using the modifier that slows your vehicle down when a weapon is equipped. The modifier I found most interesting, especially with a larger number of racers, is called Airstrike. With Airstrike active, eliminated players are given a targeting reticle which can be used to call in a missile to eliminate any player still in the race. Control of the reticle is shared among all eliminated players so there needs to be a certain degree of cooperation to make it useful. This may be the only time where teamwork becomes a viable strategy.

The current demo offers up to four local players and a total racer count of 16. When completed Space Dust Studios is promising to allow 16 human players simultaneously, all on the same screen and even all in the same room. This is to be achieved by using your existing WiFi network to connect multiple controllers, laptops and even smartphones to the game. This is definitely a feature I am eager to see in action, it is not available in the demo. I have a fairly high confidence level in the development team as it is made up of former developers from Visceral Games, Crystal Dynamics and Atari.

Space Dust Racers Review 1

Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Support?

Unfortunately Space Dust Racers is still in development and not yet available. However, there is a newly launched Kickstarter campaign underway. Space Dust Studios plans to add more game modes, tracks and modifiers to the game, but they need your support to help make it happen. They are also vying for the coveted Greenlight status from Steam. If you like party racing games then definitely check out and support Space Dust Racers, the elimination style gameplay and inclusion of modifiers make this one standout.

Space Dust Racers (Demo) Technical Summary:

Space Dust Racers Review Th

  • Time played – 3 Hours
  • Resolution Played – 1280×720
  • Widescreen Support – Yes
  • Windowed Mode – No
  • DRM – Unknown
  • Control Scheme – Keyboard, Gamepad
  • System Specification – 2.93GHz Intel i7 870, 4GB RAM, GeForce 9800GT
  • Game Acquisition Method – Demo Press Copy
  • Bugs/Crashes – Occasional framerate drops
  • Availability  – TBA (Kickstarter & Greenlight)
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