Undoubtedly like many others, I was first drawn (if you’ll mind the pun) to the Art Of Rally thanks to its visuals. Beautiful blankets of pastel colours are not something you usually expect when you think about a rally focused game. And yet, that’s what the small Canadian development team, Funselektor, was offering – a chilled-looking, stylised love letter to the rally experience. The game will likely have some very passionate fans, especially if you play it on other platforms. Unfortunately, the seemingly inferior Switch experience combined with what I found to be a rather unenjoyable take on car handling meant I found it more frustrating than fun.
First and foremost, this game looks very interesting. It’s such an arty take on the genre that you just don’t see very often. And no matter what platform you play it on, the visuals are a big plus. Then, you combine that with the short, humorous bits of rally history the game offers (including a wonderful array of fictional car names that sound ‘almost exactly quite unlike’ their real-world counterparts) – and you can’t help but feel charmed by it. This is particularly the case when you turn the corner and open up on a beautiful African sunset, or slide through a frozen lake as snow falls all around you and it all looks like a pretty painted canvas. It is very clear that this is made by people who love rally – and they really want you to love it too. However, the visuals actually also highlighted the two biggest gripes I had with the game.
It is very clear that this is made by people who love rally – and they really want you to love it too
First of all, I want to say that when you consider that Art of Rally is coming from a tiny studio, the fact that you can play this game on basically every platform, is definitely worthy of praise. However, it’s rather disappointing how poorly it performs visually on the Switch. And, weirdly, the very art style that attracts you to the game has a lot to do with its simplicity. So you’d assume even the so-called ‘underpowered Switch’ would be more than capable of handling the game especially when you think of how good other more graphically demanding games look on the hybrid console. And unfortunately, Art of Rally just doesn’t. It chugs along badly. And even someone like me who doesn’t really often notice graphical issues and will even usually forgive visual aberrations (especially when coming from indie games) – couldn’t help but notice the massive and obvious amount of pop-in. This is especially so whenever your drive past a tree or a bush, which, as you can imagine, happens around just about every turn.
Dirt drifting disappointment
The second and sadly more general gripe I had was with how the cars actually handle. Now, I will be the first to admit that I’m more of an arcade racing guy than a realistic sim connoisseur. And I’ve got to say that, somewhat impressively, the wide range of cars and even the variety of locations & weather conditions in Art of Rally, seemed to really affect gameplay. Each car feels different from the others – and as you progress up the ranks – even the step-up in speed is noticeable. Unfortunately, despite all these positives – I could just not get the hang of controlling any of the cars well. And with the chilled aesthetic, you’d really assume handling would be a pretty relaxed exercise too. Unfortunately, at least on the Switch, this was definitely not the case.
I couldn’t help but notice the massive and obvious amount of pop-in.
Often it felt like braking and accelerating inputs were actually a little delayed and spongy, meaning the handling see-saws from weirdly light and floaty to feeling like you’re trying to get an ocean liner around a hairpin. Down the rare straight you can really hit the gas. However, as soon as a single turn appears (and let me tell you in a rally game – you’ll get a few of those) my options seemed to be either: start a slide and crash into the barrier/mountain/ocean or slow down to a virtual standstill before taking the turn like a granny handling an unwieldy shopping cart. Either way, you decide to handle it, it’s just not fun. There is also the ‘theoretical’ option of using the handbrake – however, despite trying again and again – I don’t think I ever pulled off a satisfying drift around a corner. And even when I did begin to think I’d got the hang of a slightly slidy turn and I was sideways and just about ready to pull away at a 90-degree angle – slamming the accelerator just lacked that visceral oompf that you crave in this type of game.
On the positive side of things, the game does have a substantial content-filled career mode that will keep you busy for several hours (especially with the Kenyan update which is included in the Switch version). Plus, it also has free roam, time trial and even limited online modes. And if you’re a fan of Synthwave – you’ll love the music from Ukrainian Tatreal (aka Slava Korystov) that provides a pretty nostalgic soundtrack to your racing. Also, once again considering that this is all coming from a small studio, the number of accessibility options are really impressive. The multiple difficulty options and even the ability to tweak control sensitivity, in particular, stood out.
Handling see-saws from weirdly light and floaty to feeling like you’re trying to get an ocean liner around a hairpin… and slamming the accelerator just lacks that visceral oompf that you crave.
Unfortunately, even with all those options and toggling the experience as much as possible to suit my particular playstyle, I just couldn’t get it to the point that I actually enjoyed jumping from one race to another. And because I felt that way, even the inclusion of all that content wasn’t a good thing as it just made the whole experience feel like a bit of a repetitive slog. So, while this is clearly a unique and loving ode to rally and has a lot going for it in terms of art style – disappointing controls and poor performance on the Switch means this is likely a game that if you want to try, you really want to do so on a different platform.