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Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars
Score: 73%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Psyonix
Developer: Psyonix
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4; 8 (Online)
Genre: Action/ Sports (Soccer)/ Racing (Arcade)

Graphics & Sound:
Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars is easily one of the most needlessly long titles for a videogame since 2006's Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner - Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army. However, that's absolutely alright as long as the game bearing the title is fun. Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars is indeed fun, but it rarely feels like anything more than a quick diversion. This PlayStation Network downloadable game comes from Psyonix, the company known primarily for its work with Epic Games on Unreal Tournament 2004. SARPBC carries with it an intriguing premise; there are also some genuinely good ideas and mechanics at work here. However, the overall package doesn't quite measure up to the sum of its parts, and it is unfortunately only worth experiencing through the free demo.

SARPBC uses Unreal Engine 3, but that doesn't mean you should go in expecting the visual fidelity of UE3 titles like Gears of War or Unreal Tournament III. The graphics are just enough to get the job done, but that's okay - SARPBC is a casual game that is in no way suffering from an identity crisis. In the grand scheme of things, however, there really isn't much to look at besides your car, the asphalt, the glass walls and ceilings, and the occasional animating background. In fact, I think the single best looking object in SARPBC is the ball, which is a metallic sphere that looks like it belongs in Unreal Tournament III's Warfare mode. There are some neat touches with regards to the graphical presentation. For example, when you go "supersonic" (I will explain the need for quotations in a minute), the camera zooms out slightly and the screen assumes a light shade of blue.

When it comes to sound, Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars takes a minimalist approach, opting for quick synthesized loops that sound like the music in a sports highlight reel. Cars sound a bit wimpy when they're not boosting, but this isn't out of place; none of the cars really look like they should sound particularly ferocious. If this was a racing game, it might have been a problem, but since the focus of the actual game is so far removed from racing, it's perfectly fine here.

Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars's main mode of play is something of an oddity: I can only describe it as Rumble Racing meets FIFA Soccer. This thirteen-stage mode called Tournament takes place in one of a few arenas with two goals on opposite ends. At the beginning of the match, two teams of battle cars are at their respective goals, while a sphere is in the middle. The object of the game is simply to bat the ball into your opponent's goal using only your car while making sure the other team doesn't do the same to you. Each match is only about three minutes in length, resulting in Sudden Death Overtime (first to score wins) in the case of a tie. There are no item pickups in this game - driving into an enemy car with enough speed will destroy it, but in order to keep the action fresh, they respawn.

As the game's title, Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars is kind of a misnomer. Your vehicle will not even come close to exceeding the speed of sound. In fact, I think the fastest I went in SARPBC was around fifty miles per hour. Like the weak sound of the cars, the lack of speed is (potentially false advertising aside) otherwise okay here, and it certainly doesn't detract from the experience.

SARPBC features twenty mini-games in addition to the Tournament mode. Most of these games are fun diversions that serve as a means to get higher star rankings and different car styles that only serve to customize vehicle appearance. The mini-games do add a bit of meat to the package as a whole, but still come up short as a viable alternative to Tournament mode. On the plus side, however, these mini-games serve as great practice that will help you improve your skills in Tournament mode.

Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars isn't a very easy game. Much of the game's challenge lies in getting acclimated to the game's physics. A lot of what goes on in the game revolves around trying to find out exactly where the ball is; this becomes incredibly complicated when the ball is in midair. Finding the right angle of attack is really tough, but when you succeed (or get lucky), it is very rewarding. All in all, the game has a steep learning curve that the most patient of gamers will scale over time. However, many will probably tire quickly of what can sometimes be a rather punishing experience.

Most games start easy and become progressively harder; SARPBC is no exception. However, since SARPBC is such a short game, it gets really difficult - really fast. The game is not difficult to a fault, but this sudden spike in difficulty seems to cast some light on how short this game really is.

SARPBC features Trophy support, but there's not a whole lot to speak of. For example, some of them revolve around earning stars from completing missions. However, there are a few really neat trophies, such as one that requires you to score a goal while driving backwards.

Game Mechanics:
In my time with Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, I don't think I came across one unique gameplay mechanic that hasn't been used in another game. The cars have the ability to use boost, which can be accrued by simply driving over glowing yellow platforms or running into one of a few special icons littered over the map. In addition, the car can jump and flip in all sorts of crazy directions, borrowing a page from EA's Rumble Racing. This works well for the most part, but it also adds a whole new layer of skill (and chance) that contributes heavily to the difficulty level of the game.

There is a multiplayer component in SARPBC, and it's here that the game offers the most replay value. It's a lot of fun, but it's also one of those multiplayer experiences that will likely teach you the ropes by simply beating you with said ropes. In my time with SARPBC, a grand majority of the online competitors I played with and against were extremely skilled at maneuvering their vehicles. However, once you learn to catch up and fight back, the game becomes very intense and exciting.

Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars is a decent game that would have benefited greatly from a few extra months in development. The game is available for $15 US dollars, but it is so short on content that it is almost impossible for me to recommend a purchase. The game has a lot of potential, but if its current state is any indication, that potential has not been completely tapped... yet. Try the demo - you'll be glad you did.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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