Game Review: Horizon Chase Turbo (PS Vita)

One of the greatest things about growing up as a gamer in the 1980s was that we could afford to be more flippant about our choices of software. The 8-bit computer era brought us an incredible range of games for under £10 for the likes of the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64. And thanks to budget pioneers like Mastertronic it was even possible to get complete physical games at retail for under £2!

What this meant for gamers was that we didn’t have to concern ourselves with magazine reviews, or trying games out before risking our hard-earned cash. But it also lead to the start of something unheard of at the time… people were buying games purely on the reputation of those responsible for them. The people who programmed them, who created the graphics and in the case of Commodore 64 titles even those who composed the music.

Enter Horizon Chase Turbo

But what has that got to do with Horizon Chase Turbo? Well, my first encounter with the game wasn’t on the Vita – or any other platform for that matter. Instead it was the game’s soundtrack, composed by industry veteran Barry Leitch. Credited with games dating as far back as the Commodore 64 and Amiga, that caught my attention straight away. And after listening to the soundtrack countless times on Amazon Music, I had to get the game on the Nintendo Switch.

But What Is It?

Horizon Chase Turbo is a no-nonsense arcade racer that could have come straight from the consoles and arcades of the 90s, complete with a soundtrack to match. And to be honest, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Gameplay has been stripped back to basics to focus on making the game a simple, yet addictive and no-frills fun racing game that’s easy to pick up and play right from the start. There’s no drift techniques to master either so anyone can dive in and enjoy the high-octane driving action.

Gameplay is simple enough – controls are limited to accelerate, braking, steering, and a button to use your nitro to achieve a short burst of extra speed. There are no gears to wrangle with so you just have to focus on the driving itself.

The main game focuses on the World Tour which is split across 10 different cities around the world. Each of these is divided further into separate map areas, each with several individual races within them. Finish within the top few positions in each race and the next is unlocked. Complete a city and the next out of the 10 becomes available to play.

A limited choice of cars are available at the start, with more unlocked as you play throughout the game based on your performance. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses and can be upgraded by winning special races that are unlocked during extended play.

Race On!

There are no time limits to each race, but you have a finite amount of fuel for your car so you have to be mindful of this at all times. More can be collected as you race so this adds an extra challenge to each race. You only have a limited number of nitro boosts available as well, although some tracks have additional boosts scattered around them, but you have to use these wisely.

There are also tokens scattered around each track to be collected. These add bonus points to your score at the end of each race. If you managed to collect every one and finish first, you’ll be awarded the maximum number of points and a trophy. Get all of them in each city and a bonus car will be unlocked for play. The points themselves will unlock additional cars and while you can progress through the game without winning each race, performance is everything to get access to all the game has to offer.

There are also three tournaments on offer of varying difficulties, each set in different cities spanning several different tracks. Points are awarded based on your track position at the end of each race and the tournament winner is the driver with the most points at the end of four races. Win a tournament and the next city is unlocked.

Not Quite The Full Package…

I’ll come onto the technical side of the game in a moment when I mention the Vita version specifically. But as far as the console and PC versions are concerned, there are further game modes available. Most notable are several DLC packs that are absent here. A few of these were released prior to the release of the PS Vita port so I’m disappointed by their absence, especially as there is no way they can be made available now. The most recent F1 themed Senna Forever pack is understandably missing as well.

The other mode that is missing is the Playground mode. This provides gamers with random time-limited challenges putting you up against other players from around the world. While I appreciate that this has been omitted because it would have needed an online connection, perhaps an offline version could have been included offering random daily challenges for the player instead?

But What About The Game?

Ignoring all of that, Horizon Chase Turbo is an incredibly addictive racer. It lived up to all my expectations and delivered all the racing thrills I was looking for and more. It’s fast, has an incredible selection of tracks (over 100) and plenty of cars on offer so there’s plenty of variety to keep the game looking and feeling fresh.

It’s challenging but never frustrating and has that one-more-go factor that will keep you coming back constantly. Despite having games like Burnout: Paradise and Mario Kart 8 on my Switch, this is the racer I’ve probably played the most on the console so far.

Now, the Vita version is a rather special release. It was unveiled by Eastasiasoft in 2021 and surprised gamers everywhere and was amongst their final releases for the console last year. It’s notable because at that point not only was its release completely unknown to the PS Vita community, but it’s one of only a handful of physical-only titles for the console. And with a production run of just 2,200 copies, it’s one of the most sought-after games released for the system.

Head-To-Head

But how well does the PS Vita version stack up to its rivals? Generally, not too bad but it has to be said that the PS Vita port has had to make some compromises along the way to make it across to Sony’s handheld…

As you can see, the game’s solid 3D visuals have remained relatively intact from the console versions and there’s very little to distinguish between the PS Vita and Switch versions on first impressions. Where things are noticeable is the framerate. The Vita version still runs at a remarkable speed and retains all the addictive playability of the original as a result, but it’s no longer the 60fps visual delight of the other versions. It looks good, but not quite as smooth as you’d hope for.

The only other difference I noticed on the visual front was with the cars. On the Switch version you were able to change the colour schemes for all of the cars but this is missing for the Vita version. Whether this was down to time, memory constraints or something else, I don’t know. It’s only a cosmetic point, but for those expecting a perfect port it’s another gripe.

Bug Free?

It’s not without the odd visual glitch either. I spotted the odd frame drop and stutter during play – not enough to spoil the game or to hinder gameplay, but enough to be noticeable. There was also one incident of a corrupted image once I’d unlocked a car.

I had heard of concerns about the loading times for the game but didn’t find too much to complain about and while it was slightly slower than the Switch port, it was nothing to complain about. The only worry I did have is that the loading music and animation suddenly stops part way or pauses. First time it happened I actually thought the game had crashed but it was just a delay in loading.

Disappointed? No Way!

By this point you might think that I wasn’t impressive with the Vita version or didn’t enjoy playing it. That certainly wasn’t the case. The Barry Leitch soundtrack was still there in all its glory, driving the game along and drawing you deeply into the 90s gameplay. The visuals are a joy to behold, and it looks even better running on the PlayStation TV where it feels right at home using a DualShock4.

Even though there isn’t quite as much on offer as there is in the console versions, there is an astonishing amount to sink your teeth into. With over 100 tracks to master, three increasingly difficult tournaments not to mention the Endurance mode to unlock for even more gameplay, this is probably one of the biggest arcade racers I’ve ever seen. While open world racers like Need For Speed: Most Wanted may offer gamers the chance to play how they want to, I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen this much content in a straight-up racer.

Overall, despite missing some of the content and not running as fast as the original, this is a solid port to the Vita of an incredibly addictive racer. Add the soundtrack CD into the mix and it makes for a superb bundle that’s a must-have for any racing enthusiast… assuming you can find a copy, that is.

At A Glance

  • Title: Horizon Chase Turbo
  • Publisher: Eastasiasoft
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: Physical Game Card
  • Memory Card Spare Required: N/A
  • Cross Buy: N
  • Cross Play: N/A
  • Online Multiplayer: N/A
  • Local Multiplayer: N/A
  • PlayStation TV Compatible: Y

Vita Player Rating - 08

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About Simon Plumbe 1065 Articles
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I'm an animal lover and vegetarian. Enjoyed this and my other articles? Why not buy me a coffee: http://ko-fi.com/simonplumbe