Stuff I bought instead of Perfect Dark, No.4
Experienced WoS viewers are probably sick of me going on and on about Monaco GP at the slightest opportunity. Sega's 1979 coin-op racer is, nevertheless, a timeless classic that's as gripping and addictive now as it was 30 years ago, and I have no plans to shut up about it until it's universally accepted as the seminal work of genius that it is.
So when a random browse through the Xbox Live Indie catalogue turned up Monaco 360: Retro Racing for just 80 points, the chances of my not buying it were pretty much nil. However, despite the shamelessly ripped-off graphics it turned out not to be just a slavish copy, but a clone that adds a dash of its own flavour.
In fact, the basic gameplay, beyond the fact that you have to dodge other racing cars coming down the screen towards you, is pretty dissimilar. Whereas the arcade game was a race against the clock, and then a sudden-death endurance challenge on an infinite road, M3RR has a fixed end point, Out Run-style branching routes, and a generous time limit that makes it almost impossible not to reach the finishing line every play.
How it works is that every time you crash it costs you points – not a huge number, but cumulatively enough to make a big difference to your final score. The ultimate challenge, then, is to make it to the end of the two-minute race without crashing at all. As that's such a fiendishly difficult task, yet each individual crash is so eminently avoidable, you always feel that you can better your score next time, and that's the very nub of one-more-go gaming.
The game's a little bit rough around the edges – transitions between areas aren't very visually elegant, and going off-road sometimes isn't too graceful either – but it's been done properly where it matters, which is to say it's fast and responsive, and commendably lets you use the A button as the accelerator as well as the right trigger.
That's about all there is to say, really. It's a snappy little arcade game for less than 69p, and I whiled away a pleasant afternoon exploring all three routes and attacking my high score, which at 83,996 still has about a dozen crashes-worth of room for improvement. (Sadly, in common with many XBLIG titles, there's no online leaderboard.)
I'll be coming back to it at least until I've managed a perfect race, which I don't think will be any time soon, so Monaco 360: Retro Racing is definitely recommended for value. 320 points left!