[This post is part of the Completionist series. Check out the other entries here.]
New Rally-X is, technically, a racing game. It’s difficult to tell, although admittedly New Rally-X was originally released in 1981, when games very rarely bore even a passing resemblance to whatever it was they were intended to represent. But it’s definitely a racing game. In it, players steer a pixelated little buggy around a series of mazes, collecting flags and, hopefully, avoiding dead ends, clods of dirt and rival kamikaze drivers. It’s honestly horrible.
I’d love to blame the rampant badness of New Rally-X on the arcade era, which featured a lot of incredibly basic single-concept games that were designed specifically to part players from their loose change. But I can’t. Namco-Bandai re-released a whole bunch of these titles to pad out the Xbox Live Arcade library while the Xbox 360 was still in its infancy, and alongside even those games, New Rally-X is a piece of shit. It’s a dull procession of gaudy, retina-searing maps that are fundamentally uninteresting and never develop in any meaningful way. Even the central flag-collecting concept, which isn’t bad in itself, is undermined by atrociously loose controls and the mingod-numbing repetitiveness of the maps.
You might compare New Rally-X to other maze-based arcade titles, like Pac-Man, but it has none of that game’s charm or escalating complexity. In fact, the only saving grace of the hour or so I spent with this game were the Achievements, one of which, Double Extend, worth 20 Gamerscore, is awarded for reaching 100,000 in-game points and earning a second extra life. This, at least, requires some semblance of strategy, as it’s only really attainable if you prioritise the refuelling flag, which allows you to bank your remaining fuel as additional points, and limits your available fuel for the rest of the stage. This is as complex as the game ever gets.
Am I asking too much, expecting complexity in a video game that’s older than me? Perhaps. But it would be ridiculous to suggest that New Rally-X isn’t lacking something, and complexity seems like it. As I said, there’s nothing all that wrong with the core idea. It’s no less developable than the alien shooting of, say, Galaga, which is still an eminently playable game to this day. But New Rally-X just lacks that kind of replayability, and a big part of why is because the game doesn’t become more challenging as the player progresses. Sure, later stages have more enemy cars, and they move slightly quicker, but given that the player can only see a very small segment of the map at a time, this is less an increase in challenge than it is an increase in frustrating failures the player can’t account for. Nothing about this is enjoyable or interesting in the slightest, and New Rally-X even fails to summon interest as a curio from a bygone era. It’s just old rubbish.
Still, easy achievements and all that.