Well, if anything, the addition of New Rally-X to Xbox Live Arcade (when we were hoping for the recently announced Worms) now validates the message on its high score screen.
“You did it!!” it declares, “The high score of the day. Go for the world record now!!”
With new global leaderboards, what was once a poor English translation that forgot arcades got switched off at night is now a supportive, somewhat reasonable call to combat.
This Namco effort was originally released in 1981, continuing the company’s self-cribbing of the collect-junk-in-a-maze template. But unlike Pac-Man‘s omnipresent view of the playfield, New Rally-X‘s screen is hyper-zoomed onto your car’s location. A tiny box on the right side of the screen reveals the general location of the antagonizing red cars and the ten flags that need collecting to move to the next round. One flag grants bonus points based on how much fuel you have, while another doubles the points of every flag collected thereafter on that round. And if the red cars are really putting on the heat, a Speed Racer-esque smokescreen can be dumped out for elusion.
New Rally-X‘s nasty color scheme is a notable problem. It’s aggressively ugly, especially when compared to the other cool kids of video games. They knew how to use neon colors to eerie, haunting effect, justifying the ‘80s arcades’ reputations as psychedelic dens and caves.
It’s the audio that can make New Rally-X occasionally Zen: it’s easy to lose oneself in the mindless hum of engines and the game’s affable, upbeat music. But I can only ride this elemental wave for so long before realizing I’m boring myself. The game takes too long to get difficult, and even the bonus Challenging Stages are falsely advertised wastes of time. Everything lacks nuance and strategy. New Rally-X‘s sudden induction into Xbox Live Arcade was confusing for a reason: it’s simply not that compelling, world records be damned.