VSR: Void Space Racing
Release Date: 20 July 2018
Price: $9.99 / £8.99
Reviewed by Josh Brant
You can't fault developer SONKA for attempting a concept completely non-existent in the racing genre. Taking away the restraints of a track is a brave move, and their newest title VSR: Void Space Racing does just that. The question is, can the gameplay still be as fun as it's terrestrial counterparts? The controls and feel of your ship need to be about perfect to pull off such ambition for a racing title.
Void Space Racing has no narrative or story mode, with all the attention focused on the futuristic racing. The key idea is the lack of friction due to all the tracks being set in space and it's a welcome new idea.
Going Where No Man Has Gone Before
There are multiple modes, but all races follow a certain structure with you having to pass through checkpoints that create a path for you to follow. If you miss a checkpoint it will give you a penalty, which can result in an outright failure if too many are missed in a single race, or added seconds that can ruin a great run in Time Trial mode. While it may sound simplistic, VSR has a very steep learning curve that can lead to frustration.
VSR seems to have taken what could have been a great idea and made it nearly impossible to enjoy due to the lack of friction making your craft a nightmare to control. I found it extremely difficult to ever rank any higher than last place, even on the easiest setting. Controls are simple to understand, one button to brake and one to accelerate, but they were so loose and slippery that piloting your racer was more of a chore than a joyful experience.
Ridiculous Difficulty Curve
The controls are not bad in concept, and are actually quite responsive. But combining those responsive controls with ice physics where the racing formula falls apart. I found breaking before a checkpoint would allow me to pass through it more successfully, because if you’re continuously accelerating you will fly out into the greater expanse of space. That braking was needed too, because the hit detection on those checkpoints is too precise, even the slightest miss punishing the player with a time reduction or a failed race.
To unlock other courses or ships you have to finish in first place, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who'll play past the first track as relentless frustration and rage will probably overtake you before playing any further. I was only able to get first place once and that was after what seemed like endless attempts. All of this was on the easiest difficulty too.
Two players can play split-screen and this is where I had the most enjoyment. Racing aside, VSR is actually a beautiful game to behold, and it's fun to fly around without the restraints of racing through checkpoints. I don’t want to bring up a certain Superman game from the Nintendo 64, but having to fly through the checkpoint rings did bring back some memories of the dreadfulness of that infamous title.
VSR does have some positives going for it, mainly the previously mentioned graphics and how well it performs. The outer space setting is just as impressive as you'd expect, yet the framerate never stuttered even with your ship blasting off at full speed. The planets and other obstacles really added to the sense of being deep in outer space, while the techno music set the atmosphere off nicely.
Overall, I respect SONKA for what they’re trying to accomplish with VSR: Void Space Racing as it is a wholly unique take on the genre. However, unless you have the patience of a saint in order to master the mechanics, you should probably look elsewhere for a racing fix. This is the type of title I would love to see implemented as a space exploration sim and not a racer. As it is, VSR is hard to recommend unless you want to experience a wholly unique concept for racing. Just be prepared for immense frustration trying to break past the ridiculously steep learning curve.
Pros & Cons
+ Beautiful space environments
+ Music fits the setting
- Overly difficult, even on Easy
- Controls are too slippery and loose
- Gameplay is not fun in the racing genre
- Frustration will occur from replaying the same stage multiple times