Also on: PC
Developer: Mushy Jukebox / Nakana.io
A Night at the Races is one of the odder games I?ve ever played. It?s a mash-up of two genres that wouldn?t appear to have anything in common, and the end result is?something. Whether that?s something good or something bad is hard to say, and probably depends on how you feel towards its component pieces.
On the one hand, A Night at the Races is a ?90s-style adventure game. You?re given some ugly-ish, hand-drawn environments, you click around, and you uncover parts of the story. There?s nothing here that?ll make you forget Double Fine (for that matter, there?s probably not even anything here that even approaches Double Fine on their worse day), but that part of the game generally works, and doesn?t bog you down too much in senseless leaps of deduction.
Where things get weird is that the other half of A Night at the Races is a fast-paced, twitchy platformer, along the lines of Super Meat Boy. You?re controlling a cube that has to speedrun its way through a series of dangerous levels, and the number of lethal obstacles in your way is absurd. It?s one of those platformers where constant death is pretty much a given, and the moment you die the level starts over again. It takes great reflexes ? and, again, it?s not on the level of Super Meat Boy, but it works well enough that it never embarrasses itself.
While the two sides of the game couldn?t be any more different, eventually you realize that they sort of intersect. The twitch platformer is essentially the game-within-a-game of A Night at the Races, and you need to speedrun your way through it if you want to advance the broader frame story. It?s an odd way of going about things, particularly since the skills required for twitch-platforming are very different from those required by adventure games.
Do they mix well? That?s where personal preference comes in. And personally, I didn?t like A Night at the Races as much as I did the previous genre-bending efforts from Nakano.io. Those games were equally difficult to classify, but they were nonetheless engaging enough to make me want to power through the weirdness and unravel the story. Here? It?s not a bad combination, but there?s nothing as compelling. A Night at the Races is worth checking out if you?re after a game that?s unlike anything else out there, but even then, you?ll want to proceed very, very cautiously.
Nakana.io provided us with a Night at the Races Switch code for review purposes.