Providing a great racing challenge with plenty of excitement, variety and strategy, Racing Gears Advance is one of the best games of its genre. Unless it gets its ass kicked in the next nine-and-a-half months this will be up for 2005 GBA game of the year. It's that good.

Let's face it, 3D GBA racers are decent but they've never been perfected and probably will never be due to the inherent limitations of the GBA. Racing Gears uses an isometric perspective which has a slightly tilted perspective which gives us the 3D feel with the luxury of 2D processing. The tracks and cars are easy to see. The environments scroll smoothly and naturally with plenty of twists, turns and other obstacles. You'll forget that you're actually playing a 2D game.

Each race features eight licensed vehicles from the likes of Ford, Chrysler and GM. Each vehicle handles great with tight steering, good traction and powersliding abilities. Money earned from successful races can be put towards upgrades - both for defensive and offensive purposes. Each car has a special ability which will give it some kind of advantage whether it's equipped with missiles, an oil slick dispenser, speed boosts, or the ability to steal points away from other vehicles you come in contact with. Upgrading your vehicle with different features will alter your style of racing - hopefully for the good. The fun comes with experimenting.

There are 12 real-world tracks which will take you from the countryside to the snowy mountains. There are plenty of twists and turns to negotiate as well as hazards, roadblocks, trees and oncoming traffic. The tracks also feature bridges, tunnels and hidden shortcuts. If you lose sight of your car there is an arrow indicator which will pinpoint your location. The shortcuts are often hidden so you'll have to take some chances in this game. It's best to look for them when you're so far behind that you have nothing to lose. They can be put to your advantage in the next race.

Vehicle performance will be affected by the elements. You'll find yourself slipping and sliding around the ice and snow stages. You'll also need to compensate for your traction when it's raining. The rain effect is almost transparent in that it doesn't obscure your view of the track but you'll know it's raining. The AI is very aggressive and will require you to make the best of your upgrades. If you choose good tires to improve your traction the AI may not be able to keep up with you around the corners but they will try to stop you by using whatever weapon or method is available to them which means you'll have to keep your eye out for what's in front and behind of you.

Up to four players can take part in the multi-player mode. The tracks are large enough to keep everyone (pardon the pun) on track. It really extends the replay value since the game is so well developed and mechanically solid. It runs smooth, looks great, features tight controls and an arcade sense of physics that lets anyone get a handle on it in a couple of minutes. The fact that it's challenging and deep leaves room for gamers to develop their skills, both physical and mental, over time. Highly recommended for any gamer that likes a helluva' good race.

Click For Media
System: GBA
Dev: Orbital Media
Pub: Orbital Media
Release: Feb 2005
Players: 1 - 4
Review by Dean